Aubin's play nets him a deal

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

The Senators have the Dominator, now the Maple Leafs have the Hyphenator re-signed for what should be a competitive 2006-07 training camp for goaltenders.

Jean-Sebastien Aubin got a nice reward for his work the past eight games, a one-way contract worth $525,000 US. It's the 28-year-old's first serious National Hockey League deal since he was bumped by the Pittsburgh Penguins a few years ago and a dramatic change in fortune for a guy unsure two weeks ago if he could get a decent minor-league salary somewhere.

The deal was announced yesterday, but Aubin and wife Nathalie celebrated the news Monday night.

"We had a nice dinner," Aubin said yesterday after practice at the Air Canada Centre. "I was thinking it wouldn't be settled until the summer, so I'm happy it got straightened out faster.

"It's good to be back on a one-way; it's less thinking and more focusing on the game for me. I'm glad that the organization thinks so highly of me."

A CONTENDER

Even if Aubin finally loses a game in regulation this year (6-0-2), he must now be considered a serious candidate for No. 1 next year, especially if Ed Belfour is bought out of the picture for $1.5 million. He'll be fighting Mikael Tellqvist and perhaps another free agent, while the Leafs get their first look at young prodigies Justin Pogge and Tuukka Rask.

General manager John Ferguson has said he will keep an open mind at camp about letting one of the kids stay beyond September if there play warrants it. Rask is still unsigned.

"I'm not going that far," Aubin said being tabbed No. 1 for next season. "I'm focusing on this year. Hockey changes so fast. I'll take the summer to get ready. I'm sure it will be a battle.

"I always believed in myself and if I was to get a chance, I would do the best I can and go from there. The superstars have it different than us. The grinders have to battle for a job, but it's a lot of fun when you sign that kind of contract."

Coach Pat Quinn noted the Sherbrooke native has seen "plenty of bleak times" since Pittsburgh, coming back through the the minors with the Marlies.

"The road is probably loaded with more people who had lots of talent who didn't get it done, than the ones who grind it out," Quinn said.


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