Even if The Monster decides to haunt some other NHL locale next season, the Maple Leafs definitely will not bring back veteran goaltender Curtis Joseph.
General manager Brian Burke will come up with a Plan B if Swedish free agent Jonas (The Monster) Gustavsson decides not to sign with the Leafs this summer. But even if the big Swede goes elsewhere (Dallas seems to be the other leading destination), and the Leafs begin looking for a legitimate backup for Vesa Toskala, it won't be the 42-year-old Joseph.
"Great service as a Leaf," Burke said yesterday of Joseph. "But we are moving on."
It's expected that Joseph officially will retire this summer. The Keswick, Ont., native, who broke into the NHL during the 1989-90 season with the St. Louis Blues, struggled at times this past season, posting a save percentage of .869 and goals against average of 3.57.
Burke, however, is not ruling out bringing back free agent Martin Gerber, whom the Leafs claimed off waivers on March 4 this past season.
Gerber, 34, played well for Toronto, posting a .905 save percentage and 3.23 goals against.
Burke has suggested that if Gustavsson, widely considered the best goaltender outside of the NHL, signs elsewhere, he will replenish the goaltending position via the draft or free agency, which begins July 1. It's expected that the Leafs won't retain restricted free agent Justin Pogge, one time the franchise's so-called goaltender of the future.
Some front-line free agent goaltenders available for next season include Nikolai Khabibulin (Chicago Blackhawks), Manny Fernandez (Boston Bruins) and Martin Biron (Philadelphia Flyers), although it's unlikely Burke will spend a lot of money on a quality starter with Toskala under contract for another season.