Shortest NHL retirement ever!: Robert Svehla is back, ladies and gents.
TORONTO (CP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were on the verge Thursday of filling their No. 1 need of the off-season: acquiring a stellar defenceman to bolster an average blue-line.
Defenceman Robert Svehla, 33, has agreed to come out of retirement and sign with the Leafs after a final meeting with his agent Thursday.
"Robert has agreed to terms with Toronto, now it's up to Toronto and Florida to try and consummate a deal," agent Rich Winter said from a train in Slovakia on Thursday, moments after having had lunch with Svehla in his home town of Martin. "I'm hopeful that they'll be able to do that."
The Leafs must now find compensation for the Florida Panthers, Svehla's NHL team for all of his seven seasons.
"It's been going on for almost a month," Leafs executive Bill Watters said Thursday. "We sought the right to speak to Svehla's agent about him coming out of retirement. At that point, we discussed (with Florida) three or four players that might be compensation for Svehla.
"Then we proceeded since that time to pursue a deal with Svehla."
Watters was back on the phone Thursday with the Panthers, trying to put the finishing touches on a deal.
Winter says Svehla was set on retirement but that Watters worked tirelessly at changing his mind.
"Bill pursued this really aggressively," Winter said. "He called and contacted his wife, who is a horse rider, and gave her all kinds of information about equestrian in Toronto. Bill did an outstanding job of making Robert, his wife and children feel wanted."
Svehla has agreed to a one-year deal with a series of one-year options, Winter said. He wouldn't say for how much, only to say that is was "a lot of money."
"Robert's an unusual guy," Winter said. "He doesn't want to stay in Toronto unless they want him. So he insisted that we negotiate a series of one-year options. He didn't want them to be stuck with him if he wasn't playing up to par. That's just the kind of guy he is. ...
"The Leafs offered him a three-year deal at almost the same money but he wouldn't take it."
A key part of the deal is that Svehla will hand over 25 per cent of his salary to his former club team in Slovakia, Trencin.
Svehla earned $2.75 million US last season when he had seven goals and 22 assists in 82 games with the struggling Panthers.
His career year came in 1995-96, his first full season in the NHL, when he had 57 points (8-49) in 81 games. He recorded three more 40-plus point seasons but hasn't topped 30 in the last two years.
Stevie Y sitting out: Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman will have knee surgery in early August and is expected to miss the first two months of next season.
Toronto signs another ex-Florida Panther: Four years ago, Tom Fitzgerald almost became a Maple Leaf. Yesterday, he finally sealed the deal. Fitzgerald, who declined a Toronto offer in 1998 to become captain of the expansion Nashville Predators, signed a two-year deal believed to be worth just under $1 million US.