If restricted free agent Jonas Gustavsson doesn't re-sign with the Maple Leafs in the summer, he's left a heck of an impression.
The Toronto chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced Tuesday that the rookie goaltender is its nominee for the 2010 Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded for ‘perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey’.
“Maybe it’s not the award you think about winning as a kid in Sweden,” Gustavsson said on Tuesday before the Leafs met the Philadelphia Flyers in their last home game of the season. “But it is proof that you try hard.”
The Leafs and the 26-year-old Gustavsson are expected to huddle on a long-term contract soon after the regular season ends.
“I can’t think of a pro athlete who had two heart surgeries who came back and played,” coach Ron Wilson said. “His Mom passed away before he signed with us...is there a greater show of perseverance than what he has done this year?”
Gustavsson lost his mother to chronic lung disease after his father died of a blood disorder four years earlier. He became ill on the first day of Leafs’ training camp, traced to a heart condition that required an ablation surgery process. As well as fight through a groin injury, he was diagnosed with a racing heart on his way to a road shutout against the Canadiens on Dec. 1, which led to a second ablation.
Gustavsson was also dealing with a new country, new language, new team and the different NHL rink size and rules. But he found a comfort zone in the second half of the season and won seven straight starts in March.
He will take a record of 16-14-9 with a 2.82 goals-against average into Wednesday’s road game against the Rangers, his second head-to-head against his Swedish national team senior Henrik Lundqvist.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere starts against the Flyers, with the Leafs still waiting to see if top scorer Phil Kessel can play. The winger was the first Leaf off of the ice on Tuesday morning as he tests what’s believed to be a leg muscle injury. Jamie Lundmark will likely play in his place if he can’t start.
Unable to get an MRI right away, the Leafs might choose not to risk Kessel in any of their three reamining games.
The Flyers need to win two of the next three to clinch a playoff spot, with Tuesday’s game followed by a home and home with the Rangers. They have not won two in a row since early March.
“We’re in charge of what we do now,” coach Peter Laviolette said.