TORONTO (CP) - Netminder Vesa Toskala could have hit the open market next summer but instead he committed to the Toronto Maple Leafs, confident that he's found the right team after failing to land a No. 1 job in San Jose.
"I think it's a great chance for me here," Toskala said Wednesday. "That's why it was good to get this done soon so now I can turn my full focus to getting in the best possible shape and be ready when the season starts."
The laid-back Finn signed an US$8-million, two-year extension, putting to rest what would have been a constant story line next season with pending unrestricted free agency around the corner.
"Now I don't have to even think about that," Toskala said. "I can keep my focus on just playing good hockey."
For the Leafs, the extension removes the risk of having given up first-, second-and fourth-round draft picks in exchange for a goalie that could have walked away next summer.
"There was an element of risk but nothing we weren't comfortable with," said Leafs GM John Ferguson. "That was always our intention to negotiate the extension from the moment the acquisition was made. ...
"We think he's going to solidify that position for us for at least the next three years."
Toskala, who will earn $1.375 million next season, was 26-10-1 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage with the Sharks last season. But he continued to play second fiddle in net to Evgeni Nabokov. While the Leafs haven't publicly anointed him No. 1, the expectation is that he'll get every chance to carry the load with incumbent Andrew Raycroft pushing him.
"It's a new challenge and I think it's also a good chance for me," said Toskala. "I'm really excited. It's going to be a tough competition with Andrew but still I think it's a good chance for me."
Toronto acquired the 30-year-old Toskala at the NHL entry draft on June 22 along with forward Mark Bell.
Toskala was introduced to the Toronto media on Wednesday and he knows it's going to be a different drill here than it was in San Jose. A large media contingent follow the Leafs in Canada's biggest city. Is he ready for that?
"Maybe. I don't know how ready you can be," Toskala said with a laugh. "You just have to learn and live with it. I'm just trying to be open-minded, enjoy every moment and just have a good time here."