TORONTO - It looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing every thing they can to keep the Cujo caged for next season and beyond.
Reports indicated the Leafs submitted a contract offer to goaltender Curtis Joseph, who is an unrestricted free agent on July 1. That means he can sign with any team without compensation required back to Toronto.
Leafs assistant to the president Bill Watters didn't want top comment on the issue but did confirm to mapleleafs.com an offer was in place. Joseph's agent Don Meehan has reportedly said a response would come over the next week.
General Manager Pat Quinn said during his end of the year address that his top priority was to get Joseph signed.
| Curtis Joseph is the Leafs top priority. |
"We'd like to have him signed. We'd like him to stay with us and we'll make every effort," Quinn said.
Quinn also said some progress was made back in January after talks originally began last summer. The biggest question was if the Leafs could afford to give a huge three or four-year deal to a 35-year-old goaltender and not have it affect other areas of the team.
It appears as if that question has been answered with the offer sunmission. Now it's up to Joseph to decide if he wants to stay in Toronto. The Leafs trip to the Eastern Conference Final should weigh heavily in his mind given his desire to win a Stanley Cup.
Options will be plentiful for the often-spectacular netminder though. Dominik Hasek's future is still in doubt and if he retires, the Detroit Red Wings will be looking for a new goalie. He said after his Stanley Cup victory on Thursday night that he would make a decision in the next few days.
The Philadelphia Flyers have already traded one goaltender and are likely to get rid of Roman Cechmanek before the summer is out. He isn't liked in the dressing room for statements made during their first-round loss to the Ottawa Senators and the regular season. Joseph nearly signed with the Flyers the last time he was a free agent.
Other teams like the Dallas Stars, New York Rangers and St. Blues all could be a good fit for Joseph. Although the Rangers appear to be headed towards keeping Mike Richter and the Blues have young Brent Johnson, who couldn't be faulted for their playoff demise.
For Joseph the decision won't be an easy one.