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'A dream come true': Max Domi follows in father's footsteps, joins Maple Leafs

Max Domi remembers playing with miniature hockey sticks in the Scotiabank Arena hallways growing up.

Next season, he'll step onto the ice as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs after signing a one-year, US$3-million contract on Monday.

The 28-year-old's father, Tie Domi, played for the Maple Leafs from 1995 to 2006 and became a fan favourite as a colourful enforcer who punched far above his height at five-foot-eight.

Domi, who stands slightly taller at five-foot-ten, says he's envisioned himself sporting the same jersey his father once donned since he was young.

"It's a dream come true, it really is," said Domi, who calls longtime Toronto captain Mats Sundin family and on occasion took the ice after Maple Leafs morning skates at the then-named Air Canada Centre growing up. "It's something I've thought about for a long, long time and dreamed up over and over again.

"I'll never forget the feeling of just skating around out there, looking at the seats and being like, 'man, this would be the coolest thing in the world playing in this rink with every seat filled and playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs."

Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving's relationship with Domi goes back to his days with the Arizona Coyotes, who drafted Domi in 2013.

Treliving believes they'll see the "best version" of Domi playing for his hometown club.

"He has been dying to play in Toronto for a long time," said Treliving. "Having players that it means a great deal to them to pull on that jersey I think is important, and that's Max."

Still, Treliving says they signed Domi for his play -- not the Maple Leafs connection with his father.

"This isn't a legacy signing. This isn't about anything other than we think we're gonna get a really good player to help win games," he said. "Maybe there's a nice story or two, but this isn't about signing a guy because he's got some really cute pictures in the Leaf room.

"Now I think those things, the history, will drive him. It matters. It's really important to him here, playing here is important, the chance to win here."

Domi, 28, had 20 goals and 36 assists in 80 games split between the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars last season.

In 19 playoff games with the Stars, who reached the Western Conference final, he produced three goals and 10 assists.

Treliving says Domi's ability to play multiple roles and positions, and his recent playoff experience, are things the Maple Leafs are excited to add to their lineup.

"I think he's become a more responsible player. What I like about Max is also his versatility ... he's got centre versatility, plays the wing, can move up and down," he said. "I think he's a much more mature player. He understands the things now that are important. It's not all about points."

Domi joins his seventh NHL team after stints with the Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Stars.

His most productive season was in 2018-19 with the Canadiens -- when he produced 72 points in 82 games -- but 33 of his 43 career playoff games have come in the last two years.

Beyond playing for his father's team, Domi can't wait to take to the ice with the talented Maple Leafs roster.

"It just really excited me to come home and play with guys like Auston (Matthews) and Mitch (Marner) and John (Tavares) and Willie (Nylander) and all these great players, Morgan (Reilly) as well," he said. "There's just so much talent and it's a great team.

"It was a no-brainer for me."

It's the latest move in an active free agency for Treliving and his brass.

Toronto also added Dylan Gambrell on a one-year contract worth $775,000 on Monday.

Gambrell, 26, had four goals and six assists in 60 games with the Ottawa Senators last season.

The Maple Leafs signed winger Tyler Bertuzzi to a one-year, $5.5-million contract on Sunday, a day after signing defenceman John Klingberg and Ryan Reaves.

"Both (Domi and Bertuzzi), I think there's a DNA part of them that, we need a little bit more snot to our game," said Treliving. "I think they both bring a little bit of that, so we felt it was a good day yesterday."

Toronto also said goodbye to eight players over the weekend as forwards Ryan O'Reilly, Michael Bunting, Noel Acciari and Alexander Kerfoot, along with defencemen Luke Schenn, Justin Holl, Erik Gustafsson and goaltender Erik Kallgren skipped town.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2023. Top Stories

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