The rash of injuries on the Maple Leafs’ blueline, coupled with GM Brian Burke’s preference for physical players on the back end, have led the team to re-sign a familiar face.
Brian Burke, president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced Friday that the hockey club has signed free agent defenceman Jay Harrison for the balance of the 2008-09 regular season. Harrison is expected to join the Leafs on Saturday.
Harrison, a 26-year-old native of Oshawa, Ontario, played this past season for Zug of the Swiss Elite League. In 41 games played with Zug, he collected 15 points on six goals and nine assists. He ranked second on the team with 96 penalty minutes. He also played for Canadaâ€™s National Menâ€™s Team at the 2008 Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland and helped Canada finish second in the tournament.
Harrison was originally Torontoâ€™s fourth choice, selected 82nd overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. The 6â€™4, 211-pound defenceman played 13 games for the Leafs from 2005 to 2007 and registered one assist with eight penalty minutes.
Word from the grapevine is Harrison impressed the Leafs’ brass with his international play.Â Â When he became a free agent following the 2007-08 season, he was not re-signed due to a logjam of defenders in the Leafs’ system, as well the progression of Phil Oreskovic, who plays a very similar game to Harrison but boasts a higher upside.
Personally, I always liked Harrison’s game and am happy to see him back in the fold, even if it is just to fill a roster spot due to injury.Â Â Â Although his hockey future is most likely as an AHL regular with occasional NHL spot duty, he has showed in past Leaf stints that he can be effective in a limited (3rd pairing) role.Â Â At the very least, his experiences in the AHL, NHL, IIHF and European leagues ought to make him an excellent mentor for the younger Marlies, should he be retained beyond the remainder of this season.