Swedish advice beckoned Frogren

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Two of Farjestad's best players sat down in the summer for a good Jonas-to-Jonas talk.

Jonas Frogren was thinking of signing with the Maple Leafs and picked the brain of fellow Swede Jonas Hoglund, who played here from 1999-2003.

"(Hoglund) said if there's one place to play, it's Toronto," Frogren said yesterday. "And he's right. I love the atmosphere and playing with these guys."

The last defenceman to wear No. 24 here said the same things, but the done-like-dinner Bryan McCabe was trying to be diplomatic on his way out the door to Florida. Frogren hasn't been here long enough to get jaded and Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh nor his costly first-period tripping penalty soured the experience of his first NHL game.

"It was an amazing feeling, like I was playing a (video) game," he said.

Frogren and Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn both suited up for the first time this week, but for the 28-year-old Frogren, it was 10 years longer in the making. Picked 206th by Calgary in 1998 (only Michael Ryder and Karlis Skrastins went lower and made the NHL), he spent 10 years in Europe.

"I was too young to come over at first," he said and few teams showed interest afterwards.

That changed after last spring's world championships in Quebec City, when the Leafs began exploring cheaper options on their blueline.

"He was one of Sweden's elite defensive defencemen, especially in the game against Canada," general manager Cliff Fletcher said. "He fit what we're looking for at this stage."

The only issue with Frogren is how much he'll be paid. The Leafs wanted to make it worth his while to cross the ocean, including buying his release from Farjestad, by bumping his contract well over $1 million US. The NHL, claiming he should get an entry-level salary below $1 million because he was drafted, rejected the deal. The NHPLA is now grieving the decision, but Frogren can play under terms of the Leaf contract for now.


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