TORONTO – Ryan O’Byrne, the newest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, got some rest on Thursday, but not before the team put him through his paces.
O’Byrne skated in warm-ups just hours after stepping off the plane in Toronto, but watched the Leafs 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers from the Air Canada Centre’s press box.
“I flew all day and it was a good chance for me to get here and meet everybody—meet the players, meet the management, meet the coaches,” said O’Byrne during the second intermission. “And then see where I’m at on Saturday.”
O’Byrne was traded to the Leafs from the Colorado Avalanche before the trade deadline on Wednesday.
The Leafs sent a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL draft to the Avalanche in return and O’Byrne admitted that given the circumstances surrounding his contract status and the fact that Colorado likely won’t make the playoffs this season, he felt a move was in the offing before the deadline.
“It was one of those things where obviously in Colorado things weren’t going the way we’d hoped down there and with my contract expiring at the end of the season it was one of those things,” he said. “There was a chance I could get traded and obviously I got traded here and I’m really happy to be joining a playoff team.”
In Toronto, O’Byrne is re-united with fellow defenceman John-Michael Liles. The two played together in the 2010-11 when O’Byrne joined the Avalanche. Liles joined the Leafs the following season.
Liles was the first player to phone O’Byrne after news of the trade broke. It’s still unknown whether the two will be defensive partners in Toronto, but it’s clear O’Byrne has a sentimental favourite of whom he’d like to partner up with given the choice.
“We’ve got a bond on and off the ice,” O’Byrne said. “We’ve got some good chemistry. He’s a great guy and I’m happy to be joining up with him.”
O’Byrne has joined his third team since entering the NHL in 2007. He started his career with the Montreal Canadiens before being traded to the Avalanche in November, 2010.
The Leafs host the Canadiens twice before the end of the regular season and the Victoria native is relishing the opportunity to experience the storied rivalry from the other perspective.
He’s also done his best to try to endear himself to the Toronto faithful.
“I’ve actually only played in Montreal once since I got traded so it will be a little different but I’m happy to be on this side now,” he said with a grin. “The good side.”