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Giguere ready for new start in Toronto

by Josh Brewster
The Anaheim Ducks traded Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday for veteran forward Jason Blake and goaltender Vesa Toskala.

Giguere, who waived his no-trade clause, has one year remaining on his contract at a salary of $7 million. This season, the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender saw his ice time reduced as Jonas Hiller emerged as the club's number one netminder. 

His playing time in Anaheim dwindled, as Hiller's started 11 consecutive games recently. Giguere's last win came on Dec. 8 at Honda Center against Dallas. His final performance for the club came last Wednesday, in which he delivered a 44-save effort in a 5-1 loss at Washington. 

Hiller signed a four-year, $18 million contract extension on Saturday.

"Jonas, you can tell just by watching, he's a No. 1 goalie in this League," Giguere said. "You could tell that at some point, something needed to happen, whether it was going to be me or him (Hiller). I kind of had a bit of a feeling that they would lean his way, but I never really gave up. I knew that if I played well, I'd have a chance. It's been a tough go for the past few months, but Jonas has been playing well." 

Giguere played 20 games for the Ducks this season, with a record of 4-8-5, a .900 save percentage and a 3.14 goals-against average. His play during the team's run to the 2007 Stanley Cup proved inspirational. 

On the eve of those playoffs, Giguere and his wife, Kristen, learned that their newborn son, Maxime, suffered from a serious eye ailment that required specialized surgery. After Ilya Bryzgalov backstopped the team through the first round against Minnesota, Giguere proved mentally and emotionally tough, carrying the Ducks the rest of the way. 

On the Honda Center ice after the title was won, Giguere placed Maxime in the Stanley Cup and posed for photographs in a lasting image.

In 2003, Giguere became only the fifth player in history to capture the Conn Smythe trophy in a losing effort, after the Ducks took the New Jersey Devils to a seventh game in the Cup final largely on the strength of Giguere's goaltending.

"J.S. is as classy and professional as they come," Ducks GM Bob Murray said. "On behalf of the organization, we thank him for his tremendous contributions to the franchise both on and off the ice, not the least of which were two trips to the Stanley Cup Final and one championship. We wish him well in Toronto."

Giguere is the Ducks' all-time leader in wins (206) and shutouts (32). He has played 477 NHL games with Anaheim, Calgary and Hartford, earning a record of 214-177-61, a GAA of 2.52, .913 save percentage and 32 shutouts.

Giguere will be reunited with longtime goaltending coach Francois Allaire and former GM Brian Burke.

"When I got to Anaheim, I was a minor-league guy, and I didn't know what it was like to be an NHL goalie," he said of Allaire. "He gave me a great foundation. Everything I do on the ice, technical-wise, he almost taught me everything about it."
In Toronto, Giguere is expected to again be the starter. Jonas Gustavsson, 25, who has appeared in 31 games for the Leafs, will assume the backup role.

"I'm going to try to be a good teammate to him," said Giguere, who notably had a good relationship with Hiller in Anaheim. "I usually always have a good relationship with the goalies I play with, and I'm not going to be competing against him. I'm going to be competing against the puck. This is how I see it. He's my teammate. We're probably both going to want the same thing, but it doesn't mean we have to hate each other for that. We need to have a good relationship. It makes it much easier that way."

In Blake, Anaheim receives help up front, where left wing Joffrey Lupul has missed 22 games due to back surgery and a subsequent infection. Teemu Selanne remains out of the lineup due to a broken jaw and has been limited to 30 games this season.
"I know how Burkie (GM Burke) works, and I'm confident that he'll make the right moves for this club to be competitive." -- J.S. Giguere
On Oct. 8, 2007, Blake revealed that he had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a rare, but treatable cancer. He continued to play for the Leafs, did not miss a game that season and managed 15 goals and 52 points in 2007-08. Last season, his production increased to 25 goals. The 36-year-old will look to regain the scoring touch that made him a 40-goal scorer in 2006-07. This season, he has 10 goals and 16 assists.

The 32-year-old Toskala, who was frequently bumped from his starting position by Gustavsson, will assume the backup position in Anaheim behind Hiller.  The Ducks sit in  12th place in the Western Conference with 57 points. 

The Leafs find themselves last in the Eastern Conference with 45 points.

"(The Leafs need to) try to make the playoffs," said Giguere. "It's going to be a long shot, but there's still hope. I know how Burkie (GM Burke) works, and I'm confident that he'll make the right moves for this club to be competitive."

Earlier today, Burke's acquisition of Dion Phaneuf from Calgary was reminiscent of his key 2006 acquisition of big defenseman Chris Pronger, who, along with Giguere, helped the Ducks win a championship in 2007. 

Giguere thanked Anaheim fans for their support over the years and in particular, during the difficult period he and wife faced when Maxime's health was an issue.

"He's doing great," Giguere said.

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