Colaiacovo re-signs with Maple Leafs for US$3.85 million over three years

The NHL team announced a US$3.85-million, three-year contract renewal with the 24-year-old blue-liner Thursday. “He made some great strides, last year especially,” said GM John Ferguson Jr., who apparently has a lot of money to spend. “He’s got some real good upside.

“We look forward to having him as an integral part of our defence for the next three years.”

Colaiacovo, who grew up in Toronto, appeared in 48 games in 2006-07 and scored eight goals while assisting on nine and getting 22 penalty minutes. He was a plus-5 on the plus-minus scale. Among rookie NHL defencemen, he had the second-most goals and was sixth in points.

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The six-foot-one, 200-pound defenceman, who has had concussion setbacks, was the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. He was Toronto’s first choice, 17th overall, in the 2001 entry draft.

The Leafs haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2004. They’ll take to the ice this autumn with many of the players who were in the lineup last season.