Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Tim Connolly to Two-Year, $9.5 MIllion Contract

Adam MartinContributor IIIJuly 2, 2011

Tim Connolly
Tim ConnollyPaul Bereswill/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed free-agent centre Tim Connolly to a two-year, $9.5 million (U.S.) deal, according to various media sources.

The former Buffalo Sabre had 13 goals and 29 assists in 69 games last year, and is just one season removed from a 65-point campaign.

The move came just a few hours after the New York Rangers signed Brad Richards, the jewel of this year’s free-agent crop whom the Leafs reportedly courted heavily, to a nine-year, $60 million contract.

Connolly has battled a variety of injuries throughout his career, and has not played in a full season since his first campaign as a Sabre a decade ago.

The American was drafted by the New York Islanders fifth overall in 1999, but was traded to Buffalo along with Taylor Pyatt for Mike Peca in 2001. He has spent his entire career with the Sabres since then.

Overall, he has 118 goals and 277 assists in 627 career games played.

The Leafs were looking for a top-line centre to play with star winger and fellow American Phil Kessel after Tyler Bozak proved inept in the role last season following a promising rookie campaign.

While Connolly is really more of a second-line player, he was one of the top centres available in this year’s poor free-agent pool, especially after Richards opted to go to New York even though the Leafs apparently offered him a similar deal.

It remains to be seen if Connolly can stay healthy and provide the Leafs with the type of top-six play-making ability they need in order to score more goals