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Battaglia signs two-way contract
Acton's expected back behind bench
Jul. 11, 2006. 01:00 AM

Lost amid the myriad free-agent signings last week was the Maple Leafs quietly agreeing to terms with former Carolina Hurricanes left winger Bates Battaglia on an NHL deal.

Battaglia, a prominent part of the Hurricanes team that defeated the Leafs in the 2002 Eastern Conference final, played for the Toronto Marlies last season on an American Hockey League contract and could not be called up to the big team. But the Leafs last week signed Battaglia to a two-way NHL deal, which would see him make $450,000 (U.S.) in the NHL and $95,000 (Cdn.) in the minors. The 30-year-old Battaglia, who has played 458 career NHL games, will likely be used as an injury fill-in for the Leafs, but he will be given a chance to win a job in training camp.

"At the very least, he's going to do exactly what he did for (the Marlies) last year," said Leafs coach Paul Maurice, who coached Battaglia with the Hurricanes and the Marlies. "I know he doesn't want that to happen. What he did was he showed all of those kids just how hard you have to work. After our first exhibition game, he's on the bike right after the game biking harder than any of those kids have ever seen anybody bike after a game. I really liked his maturity too. He didn't take days off."

Battaglia has come a long way in that regard, considering former Leaf Gary Roberts once dismissed Battaglia from a summer workout group because he felt he wasn't giving enough effort. Battaglia scored 20 goals and 67 points for the Marlies last season and has proven in the past that he can score at the NHL level. He had 49 goals over three seasons with the Hurricanes, including a career-high 21 in 2001-02.

ACTON A LEAF: Maurice said the Leafs hope to wrap up their assistant coach search by the end of this week, but sources have indicated that Keith Acton will be back as an assistant with the Leafs and not as head coach of the Marlies.

Peter DeBoer, who lost out on the Marlies job to Maurice last summer, is not in the running for either the assistant's job or the Marlies post and will remain with the Kitchener Rangers.

There had been speculation that Adam Graves, a good friend of Maurice's from junior hockey, might be an assistant, but he is working for the New York Rangers and is finishing his MBA degree. Former Vancouver Canucks assistant Mike Johnston, who was also a candidate, was yesterday named an associate coach with the Los Angeles Kings and Wayne Fleming took himself out of the running by taking an assistant's job with another NHL team.

BIG TEAM PLAYER: Legions of Leaf fans were left scratching their heads after the team signed Nik Antropov to a one-year deal for more than $1 million (U.S.), but that sentiment is apparently not shared by his teammates.

"One of the interesting things that happens when you interview the other players, how many of the forwards say they like playing with him," Maurice said. "Usually, the players in the locker room have a good sense of a player's ability, maybe better at times than a coach."

The knocks on Antropov include being an underachiever and injury-prone, not using his size and taking bad penalties, but Maurice is confident he can work with the player.

"Nik is a player that I'm hoping, that with adjustments in his game, he can come out and be a better player," Maurice said. "The talent is there, for sure."

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Glad to see Battaglia is still with the Leafs. I'm really hoping he'll re-gain the form he had back in 2002, and maybe stay with the big club this year. I know he's going to get a few chances with Paul Muarice as the Coach of the team, so I'll be watching for him.

As for Antro... I still think they should have let him go. Not saying that he doesn't have any potential left, but there are other players on the team behind adnd waiting for more of a chance. Continuing to use him is only wasting their time, and hindering some of their development.
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