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Raycroft's Dream Comes True

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

June 27, 2006

-- A jet-lagged Andrew Raycroft passed his physical Tuesday, making his trade from the Boston Bruins and installation as the No. 1 goaltender of the Toronto Maple Leafs official.

"I have no idea what time it is,'' Raycroft said at 4:40 p.m. ET as he stood in the team's empty Air Canada Centre dressing room after his first news conference as a Leaf.

He'd arrived from an Italian vacation at his Boston home at 6 p.m. Monday and had a 6 a.m. flight to Toronto.

Tending goal for a club that missed the playoffs last spring will certainly be no holiday.

The 26-year-old native of Belleville, Ont., is ecstatic about the chance though.

"It's going to be a great experience,'' said Raycroft. "I'm looking forward to contributing and having a good season.''

Toronto relinquished goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask at the NHL draft Saturday to get Raycroft, who has outstanding reflexes, a quick glove and excellent foot speed.

He also has a poor 2005-2006 season for which to atone.

Boston selected him in the fifth round, 135th overall, in the 1998 entry draft when he barely weighed 150 pounds.

His size was considered a detriment.

Yet, he progressed so rapidly that he was named top major junior goalie of the year in Canada in 1999-2000 when he starred with the OHL club in Kingston.

After three years in the AHL, he was named the NHL's top rookie in 2003-2004 when he posted a 2.05 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage for the Bruins. The six-foot goalie had added muscle and tipped the scales at 180.

But Raycroft was inconsistent in his second season, which was the post-lockout year in which goalies played with slightly smaller equipment.

He had a 3.72 GAA and a .879 save percentage and fell to third on Boston's depth chart behind Tim Thomas and Hannu Toivonen, making some wonder if he hadn't been a flash in a hockey pan.

Leafs GM John Ferguson has gambled that the man teammates call Rayzor can regain his Calder Trophy form.

"He's only 26 and he's still getting better as a professional,'' Ferguson said. "Last season is not reflective of his entire body of work.

"I'm not sure we make any decisions that don't involved risk. You look around the league and there's only a few guys who've earned starting positions at his age.''

Raycroft said he was confident he'd return to his Calder-winning form.

"I'd like to think so,'' he said.

Last season "was unfortunate'' because "I didn't play well at times, had two or three injuries . . . and the team went through a lot,'' he said. "It was just one of those years that didn't go as it should.

"Everybody has gone through a year like that. How you're judged is how you bounce back.''

There was a positive side to an otherwise dark season.

"You learn a lot about yourself when things go bad,'' he said. "It's made me a better player and a better person.''

He declined to criticize the Bruins in any way.

"The time was right to go,'' he said. "Now I can get motivated and focus on being here.

"It feels good to go through a hard time and actually have something positive happen.''

He'll wear No. 1. The last Leafs goalie to wear it was Damian Rhodes in the mid-1990s.

Meanwhile, Ferguson had nothing new to add on the stalled negotiations to sign defenceman Bryan McCabe and he wouldn't divulge what's in store for Tie Domi.

The Leafs will likely buy out the contract of the veteran enforcer, as they will with goalie Ed Belfour.

"Those decisions will be made in the next couple of days,'' he offered.

He promised to be "very active'' in the free-agent market that opens July 1. His priority will be defencemen.

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