Leafs veterans not concerned

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

A pair of potentially killer B's aren't bothering Ed Belfour.

In a rare interview, Belfour said last night his sometimes wonky back is feeling good and he is not worrying about the Maple Leafs exercising a buyout of his contract.

"It gave me a chance to heal a bit," the goaltender told the Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger about the NHL lockout. "I feel strong and (the back) is great, sounder than ever. I'm still motivated and ready to play. I've been on the ice all winter."

Though Belfour, who turned 40 in April, carries a hefty contract that is $4.56 million US -- even with a 24% rollback -- but it's not expected the Leafs will buy him out.

Unlike Belfour, Gary Roberts has no contract with the Leafs but he certainly would like one. Roberts will be an unrestricted free agent once the NHL owners ratify the new collective bargaining agreement today in New York.

There is speculation the Leafs' main rival in recent years, the Ottawa Senators, will make a big push for Roberts if he does not re-sign with the Leafs prior to Aug. 1.

"I might get run off the road heading over there," Roberts said when he was asked whether he could picture himself in a Senators uniform. "There is nothing that I would (like) more than to be a Maple Leaf. I am not going to sit here and say Toronto is the only team I am going to play for. (But) I would love to be here, I love the way the fans have treated me and I love the city."

So too does forward Nik Antropov, whom the Leafs could keep if they qualify him at $1,007,000. But he said yesterday he is not sure what is going to happen regarding his personal status. Other Leafs who are up for qualifiers are Aki Berg, Wade Belak, Chad Kilger, Karel Pilar, Nathan Perrott and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

What's certain about the coming days is that once the NHL's general managers and player agents get a fairly firm grasp on the new CBA, there will be plenty of player movement. Beginning tomorrow, teams will have a six-day window in which they can buy out their players without the money counting against the cap. Also, clubs will enter an exclusive period, ending Aug. 1, in which they can negotiate with their own free agents.

"Who knows who is going to get bought out?" Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "There are going to be 400 free agents out there and there are going to be a lot of teams vying for position. I think we are in a strong spot. (GM) John (Ferguson) is a smart guy and I'm sure he has all his cards in the right places."


Photos