Tomas Kaberle still hesitates when answering his phone in the Czech Republic.
But the wait and worry ends Saturday when the window on the defenceman's no-trade contract closes, with him still expected to be a Maple Leaf.
Kaberle was relieved to hear general manager Brian Burke predict again yesterday that he'll be in the fold when training camp opens in a month.
"I'm happy to be staying a Leaf, though there are still a few days to go," a cautious Kaberle said yesterday in a phone interview from his hometown of Kladno.
"Everyone knew what Brian said, that if he got a good deal there would be movement with me. But I'm getting ready to go to Toronto now, working out the past few weeks with (compatriot and Canadiens forward) Tomas Plekanec and ready to fly out in a few weeks and see the guys."
From dangling Kaberle in trade talks since the end of the regular season -- a deal for Boston's Phil Kessel was discussed -- Burke moved to strengthen the Toronto blueline from a toughness standpoint.
He believes Kaberle can be more effective here with newcomers Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and Garnet Exelby riding shotgun.
"Exactly," Kaberle said. "We're a little sounder at the back end now, which we needed (as defencemen) and to protect our goalie.
"I guess we were (pushed around) at times last year. Now, it's up to us. Brian has done his work, we have to do our part."
Starting from the bottom of the goaltending depth chart is nothing new for Joey MacDonald.
"One year in Detroit, I was behind Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph and Manny Legace," MacDonald recalled yesterday after signing a one-year deal with Toronto on Monday.
Having worked hard to scrape out a 60-plus games NHL career, most of those as a New York Islander last year, MacDonald intends to make it tough on the Leafs to demote him to the AHL Marlies. He'll be battling Jonas Gustavsson for the No. 2 role behind Vesa Toskala.
"You just never know in hockey," said MacDonald, the NHL's third star in November last year behind Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin on the strength of his eight-win month. He won 14 games in total last season.
The 29-year-old grew up in Pictou, N.S., a big Joseph/Leafs fan. With Boston and Detroit he'd managed to wear Joseph's No. 31 until coming to the Island where it was retired for Billy Smith.
"My first game as an NHL backup in Detroit in '02 was behind Cujo," MacDonald said. "We've chit-chatted a few times through the years, such as Leafs-Islander games if we didn't play.
"My parents and grandparents were Leaf fans, like everyone in Pictou County.
"I've been on the phone since I signed."
Burke says Toskala's recovery from hip and groin surgery in the spring is proceeding on schedule ... RDS.ca reports that Nikolai Zherdev is expected to sign with Salavatovo Yuleav Ufa of the KHL, after the New York Rangers walked away from salary arbitration. Zherdev had 58 points in 82 games last season.