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Leafs make Lindros' 'dream come true'

TORONTO -- Eric Lindros admits he is not the player he once
was.

But even after eight concussions, he thinks he has plenty left
to offer the Toronto Maple Leafs.

General manager John Ferguson is giving Lindros that opportunity
and taking a chance by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.55
million with the hulking forward.

"I don't think you can run around and crash and bang quite the
way that I might have done in the past," Lindros said.
"Hopefully, I'm a little older and a little wiser.

"There's always risk. But I'm going to come in and play hard. I
want to come in and contribute."

The shoulder injury that limited Lindros to 39 games with the
New York Rangers the last time there was an NHL season is
completely healed, he said. He's been skating for four weeks,
practicing yoga with Leafs enforcer Tie Domi, and weighing in at
slightly more than 250 pounds.

"I generally play at about 244 so I've got a little bit to lose
so I'll see you in a month," he said with a smile.

He wasn't reluctant to discuss his many concussions -- and mostly
joked about the hits to the head.

"I still have a lot to give," he said. "I'm really working at
stickhandling with my head up."

Lindros nearly joined the Leafs four years ago, but a trade from
Philadelphia collapsed at the last minute. Now the Ontario native
is finally on the team for which he's always wanted to play.

When Ferguson handed him a dark blue home jersey with No. 88 on
the back, Lindros remarked that it must be "a little dusty."

Lindros grew up watching Darryl Sittler and Borje Salming on TV
and had a pair of pajamas with Leafs emblems all over them. The
family moved to Toronto when he was about 8.

"It's obviously a dream come true. It's an absolute thrill,"
he said. "I've got a lot of friends here and it's an organization
that's always contending. There's a desire to win. It's a hotbed of
hockey."

Lindros consulted with a head injury specialist and had an MRI
on his repaired shoulder to satisfy the Leafs that he is fit to
play.

"He's passed [the tests], he's here and we're glad to have
him," said Ferguson, adding there are no performance bonuses in
the contract.

Lindros said he's optimistic about the Leafs' coming season. He
recently bought a downtown house 10 minutes from the arena.

"[The contract] is only for a year but I'm looking forward to
being here for many years to come," he said.

Carl Lindros, the player's father and agent, said other teams
were interested.

"Teams were still calling [Thursday] morning," he said. "It's
interesting how it worked out. But this is a good situation for
him. It's what he wanted."

In November 2000, Lindros -- then out of favor with the
Philadelphia Flyers -- announced the Leafs were the only team he
wanted to be traded to.

Toronto's board of governors approved a deal to get Lindros
three months later but Pat Quinn, then coach and general manager,
said a day later that the Flyers pulled out of the agreement.

Lindros was eventually traded to the Rangers on Aug. 20, 2001,
and the 32-year-old forward played three seasons on Broadway.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound center won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's
most valuable player in 1994-95 and the Lester B. Pearson Award as
the most outstanding player in the league as voted by the players.

But concussions have taken their toll.

He missed all of the 2000-01 season recovering from head
injuries after a check from New Jersey's Scott Stevens in Game 7 of
the 2000 Eastern Conference finals gave Lindros his sixth career
concussion.

Lindros has played 678 NHL games for Philadelphia and the
Rangers, recording 356 goals, 461 assists and 1,285 penalty
minutes.

His new salary is a far cry from the $8.5 million qualifying
offer he turned down from the Flyers before being traded to New
York.

Lindros was tabbed as "The Next One" but has made almost as
much news off the ice as on.

In 1989, he was taken first in the Ontario Hockey League draft
of 16-year-old players by Sault Ste. Marie but refused to report.

He was then chosen No. 1 in the 1991 NHL draft but he refused to
sign with the Quebec Nordiques, forcing a trade a year later.

But that wasn't a simple transaction, either, as the Flyers and
Rangers both claimed to have reached an agreement with Quebec on a
deal for Lindros. An arbitrator later awarded his rights to the
Flyers, who traded five players -- including Peter Forsberg -- a
draft choice, future considerations and $15 million to the
Nordiques.

The Flyers made Lindros their captain in September 1994 but the
relationship between him and the organization -- especially general
manager Bob Clarke -- soon turned sour.

In March 2000, Lindros criticized Flyers' trainers for not
recognizing a concussion. Days later he was stripped of the
captaincy.

A string of concussions followed and Lindros eventually wound up
in New York.