January 25, 2012
Liles give Liles extension'It's been a pretty good day'
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - John-Michael Liles enjoys life in Toronto enough that he’ll look past the poor playoff record, the fishbowl existence, heck he even took a haircut on his annual salary.
This Hoosier defenceman likes Hogtown enough after four months to sign a four-year extension that will likely take him to the end of his NHL career.
“We have a team that can do special things,” Liles said during a conference call Tuesday evening, after agreeing to stay with the Maple Leafs until the 2015-16 season for a total of $15.5 million. “It’s a place that has grown dear to my heart.
“The first day at camp, after (general manager) Brian Burke had spoken to the team, I called my agent (Joel Resnick) and said, ‘I’d go through a wall for this guy’.”
Not necessary sir, especially with Liles coming off a concussion to rejoin a possible post-season drive after the all-star break. The 31-year-old defenceman assured he’s recovered, in fact he said he was never diagnosed with the dreaded head trauma. He believes the symptoms are related to a neck injury he suffered in the Dec. 22 game against Buffalo.
“It’s coming along,” Liles said of the injury, refuting the notion that a scaling back of on-ice activity the past few days meant a setback. “We went pretty hard for four or five days.”
As Tomas Kaberle’s replacement as the team’s Picasso point man, Liles had 21 points in 34 games before his injury. That’s 67 points in just more than 100 games counting his last season with the Colorado Avalanche. Liles came in making $4.2 million, but the average will drop in the duration of the contract.
“Honestly, I don’t look at it like that,” he said. “Maybe I did take a cut, maybe I didn’t, but I’m going to live in the city I wanted to.”
Many players in Liles’ position have taken similar money and then found the hassles aren’t worth it. With the Leafs never quite clearing the hump, there are plenty of fans and media around to remind players of no Stanley Cup since 1967. Those with fat contracts tend to get the most grief, deserved or not.
“Well, I would have to agree it’s the centre of the hockey universe,” Liles said with a laugh. “But I enjoy playing here. You know it’s a sellout, hockey is covered each and every night and the team do everything first-class here. I spoke to my agent (a few weeks ago) and said, ‘If there’s any way we can stay’ ... and Toronto came with an offer that excited us.
“We have a young team, with a mix of older guys, guys who have been around, guys who are coming in. We have a very god defensive core that I’d stack up with the best in the league, puck movers and guys who will throw the body around. There is a fantastic team dynamic and a great room. That starts with management and goes right through the coaching staff and the players.
“My family is happy. There are a lot of texts going around. It’s been a good day.”