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The Toronto Maple Leafs didn't get their man - at least not the one they really wanted. No, Brian Burke and company were forced to watch bitterly as this year's most coveted free agent prize took his talents to their Original Six rivals - the New York Rangers.
Rather than brood about their luck the Leafs got right back to work, moving swiftly to address their all-too-obvious need for a center. In the end they opted to sign former Buffalo Sabre Tim Connolly to a 2 year, $9.5 million deal to help fill the void in the middle of the ice.
The hope is that Connolly will swiftly be able to find chemistry for speedy sniper Phil Kessel. Team management believe that Kessel has the potential to be a 50 goal scorer in the NHL, but he needs a gifted playmaking center feeding him the puck on a regular basis to reach that potential.
Can Tim Connolly be that guy? He certainly has the skill set to make an impact with the Leafs, but is he good enough to justify his nearly $5 million/year paycheck?
Perhaps a better question would be: Can he stay healthy enough to justify the dough he is going to earn? Connolly has consistently produced points when he's been in the line-up, and with his deft stick-handling ability has actually appeared on the highlight reel on a regular basis over the years. However, he's had more than his fair share of injury woes and hasn't played a complete 82 game season since 2001-02. Since the lockout he has missed a whopping 190 games due to injury. Still, the 250 points he put up over the same span speak to his offensive gifts. Signing Connolly might not have been Toronto's first choice, but it was a move that had to be made if the Leafs are going to compete for a playoff spot next season. If Connolly can stay healthy and if he can mesh with Kessel look for the Leafs to finally get back into the post-season in 2012.