March 23, 2006Ed Belfour placed on injured reserveMONTREAL (CP)
-- Ed Belfour may have played his last game in a Maple Leaf uniform but perhaps not his last one in the NHL.
"I know speaking with him that he wants to get back and continue to play,'' Leafs GM John Ferguson said Thursday night, reacting to news that the 40-year-old goalie was out for the season with a back injury.
|The Eagle isn't expected to play the remainder of the season. |
For the record, Ferguson wouldn't confirm what the Leafs would do with Belfour's contract option.
"We've got some time to make that decision and it won't be made here,'' Ferguson said.
Mikael Tellqvist started his seventh consecutive game Thursday night but his first as the official No. 1 starter now that Belfour is gone. Ferguson agreed the rest of the season will give the Leafs a nice sample of whether the Swedish Olympic backup can be a true starter in the NHL.
"Certainly it's going to give us some real good feedback,'' said Ferguson. "It's a pressure situation for Mikael. He's developed and continued to improve. He played solid as Eddie's backup all through the year and now he's being looked at as the guy to carry the mail.''
Ferguson, who arrived moments before Thursday's game, said he spoke to Belfour and his agent Ron Salcer on Wednesday when it was decided that the best course of action was for the veteran goalie to rest his back for the rest of the season.
Belfour last played in a shootout loss to the Islanders on March 10. He had a 22-22-4 record with a 3.29 goals-against average and .892 save percentage this season - not the kind of numbers usually associated with Belfour, who shined in his first two years after joining Toronto.
Ferguson rewarded him in July 2004 with a three-year deal, one which he found himself defending Thursday night.
"Basing it on the most recent history prior to signing him, we're talking about a guy who led the NHL in regular season and playoffs in total shutouts before the lockout, he shut out Ottawa three times in the playoffs -- the top scoring team in the league,'' said Ferguson. "He played 49 games this year. It's unfortunate for him. He needs to get some rest and get some treatment.''
During his 16-year NHL career, Belfour has 457 wins -- second only to Patrick Roy's 551.