The Big Pitch
The Dallas Stars rolled out a former U.S. president. The Maple Leafs countered with hockey history.
|LUCAS OLENIUK/TORONTO STAR|
|Gustavsson landed in Toronto June 19 on a flight from Dallas.|
That's was the punctuation mark with which Brian Burke made his passionate pitch to Jonas (The Monster) Gustavsson on the weekend, with the free agent Swedish goaltender now expected to make his selection of his first NHL team next weekend.
When Gustavsson walked into the home dressing room of the Air Canada Centre last Saturday, he was greeted by the jerseys of all the Leaf goaltenders over the years, from Johnny Bower to Turk Broda to Terry Sawchuk to Felix Potvin to Curtis Joseph with, of course, a No. 50 with the name "Gustavsson" occupying the final stall.
"That was a really nice touch," said Gustavsson's Toronto-based agent, Joe Resnick.
Gustavsson met with Burke, his right-hand man Dave Nonis, goaltending instructor Francois Allaire and head coach Ron Wilson on Saturday and toured both the ACC and the club's new practice facility on Kipling Ave. in south Etobicoke. Gustavsson also toured some local real estate and even saw a local nursing facility where his girlfriend of two years, a registered nurse who missed the trip because of a terrible fear of flying, may find employment.
Gustavsson then dined with Leaf forward John Mitchell on Saturday before meeting with Nonis and Jeff Jackson, another member of the Leaf front office team, for breakfast on Sunday, and then flying back to Sweden.
For the Leafs, learning of Gustavsson's intentions before July 1st would be enormously helpful as they try to make a decision on the future of young netminder Justin Pogge. The Leafs need to tender a qualifying offer to Pogge before July 1st, and it's possible they might not do that if Gustavsson signs.
The Stars, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks are all still in the mix.
"There's nothing we can do now," said Burke. "As a lawyer, all you want is a chance to make your case, and now its in the hands of the judge."