TORONTO - Under a shrinking salary umbrella, the Maple Leafs have saved room for their big policeman.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent, winger Colton Orr signed a two-year deal on Thursday, after his career was resuscitated under coach Randy Carlyle. The fourth-liner played all but four of 48 regular-season games and was a plus-4 with an NHL-high 155 penalty minutes. He also played all seven playoff games against the Bruins, though not on a regular shift.
He and tag-team partner Frazer McLaren, who remains a restricted free agent, were credited by Carlyle for giving the Leafs, particularly youngsters, a feeling of security that helped some players to productive seasons. The Leafs topped the NHL in fighting majors with 44, 13 by Orr, who was one back of Tampaís B.J. Crombeen for the league lead.
Orr averaged 6:23 of ice time a night and didnít embarrass himself defensively as some one-dimensional brawlers do. He met the challenge from Carlyle and Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins to shed weight last summer and re-claim his checking role after former Leaf coach Ron Wilson phased him out of the lineup. He was eventually demoted.
Orr will average $925,000 US per season, slightly less than in 2013. The Leafs will have to find some other savings and make a compliance buyout to fit comfortably under the NHLís new $64.3 million cap. They still have to bring in No. 1 centre Tyler Bozak, set to become a UFA in a few weeks, but wonít be so eager to pay a lot for second-line winger Clarke MacArthur. Ryan OíByrne and Mike Kostka are their UFA defencemen, while other RFAs include forward Nazem Kadri and defencemen Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarsson.
General manager Dave Nonis also brought Marlies starter Drew MacIntyre back to the fold on Thursday. MacIntyreís one-year $600,000, two-way deal allows him to jump to the Leafs in a pinch, but mainly be the farm teamís No. 1 and serve as mentor to rookie Garret Sparks. The latter is expected to move up if Jussi Rynnas and Mark Owuya arenít re-signed.