Mark Bell's roller-coaster tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs has come to an end as the New York Rangers have claimed the winger on re-entry waivers.
The 28-year old Bell was originally acquired by the Leafs, along with goaltender Vesa Toskala from the San Jose Sharks for draft picks in 2007. After being acquired by Toronto, Bell served a month long suspension and was placed in stage two of the NHL's substance abuse program after a no-contest plea to drunk driving and hit-and-run charges from a 2006 arrest in California.
The St. Paul's, Ontario native played only 35 games for the Maple Leafs in the 2007-08 season, missing 31 games with an orbital fracture. Bell was assigned to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL at the beginning of the current season. In 56 games he has 12 goals and 15 assists.
On a conference call, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke praised Bell for his work ethic while in the AHL.
"I'm thrilled for Mark Bell because this kid's been through a lot," Leafs GM Brian Burke said on a conference call. "He was in the minors on a one-way contract. He worked his butt off, he never complained and did a good job for us with the Marlies.
"I am absolutely thrilled for him."
Bell has $2.5-million remaining on his contract, which will be split between the Rangers and Leafs. He will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Bell is the third player that the Leafs have placed on re-entry waivers in an attempt to give veteran players with NHL experience another shot. Forwards Bates Battaglia and Boyd Devereaux were both recently left exposed in the re-entry process.
"We've put all of our re-entry guys on and we've lost two of them now," said Burke. "All of them were guys that were given a chance to go elsewhere, they deserve that. They've all been quality people for us.
"(Rangers GM) Glen (Sather) called me last week and said, 'What do you think? Do you think (Bell) can help us?' So we had a brief discussion about it. I'm not altogether surprised.
"Good for Mark Bell, that's awesome."
Although he has been claimed by the Rangers, he will not be in the lineup tonight when the Blue shirts face the Maple Leafs on TSN.