Former Lightning defensemen Paul Ranger continues comeback to NHL

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger spoke to reporters today after being absent from the sport of hockey for four years due to "personal reasons." Ranger has not played a National Hockey League game since October 2009.

Many storylines surround the opening of National Hockey League training camps but one of the most interesting is arguably the comeback of former Tampa Bay Lightning and current Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen Paul Ranger.

Ranger signed a one year $1 million contract with the Leafs in August after a four year absence from the sport of hockey while citing "personal reasons" that he has yet to elaborate on.

His responses during the Maple Leafs media day today in Toronto, at times, were quite emotional.

Ranger has not skated in an NHL game since October 2009. In fact, the last time he visited the Tampa Bay Times Forum was actually in 2010 to pick up tax documents.

Ranger made his return to playing pro hockey last season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Ranger played 51 games and was a plus-16 on that team. He also contributed 8 goals and 17 assists.

Regardless of Ranger's absence from the game, it didn't stop Leafs General Manager Dave Nonis from making a bold prediction. He thinks Ranger will be in a Toronto uniform at the beginning of the season instead of starting in the American Hockey League with the Leafs' affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

Ranger could be back in Tampa Bay as early as February 6th when the Maple Leafs visit the Lightning.

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