CAUGHT IN THE NETS
WHAT'S NEXT FOR EDDIE?
So, what now for the aforementioned Ed Belfour? The 41-year-old surefire Hall of Famer will be bought out of his contract by the Leafs in the offseason, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer. With Belfour having surpassed Terry Sawchuk for second all-time in wins by a goaltender, one wonders what is left for him to accomplish. Still, history has shown that just when people are ready to write his epitaph, Belfour is capable of surprise. Does he have anything left in the tank after 17 NHL seasons?
There are two main questions that will confront any team thinking of taking a flier on the mercurial goalie next season. First, is the status of Belfour's wonky back. If the problems cannot be treated during a long offseason, any discussion of his future is moot. But if Belfour is healthy, the question becomes whether he ever could be happy accepting the role of backup and mentor somewhere else. Most will suggest the prickly veteran is incapable of such a transition, but we say here Belfour actually might turn into a surprisingly good support player. It was so when he was the third netminder in Salt Lake City when Canada won gold in 2002.
What about a reunion with Ken Hitchcock in Philadelphia, where Belfour could back up Olympic star Antero Niittymaki? Or how about rejoining former coach Mike Keenan, now the GM in Florida? One thing's for sure, the big paydays are over for Belfour. Now, it's a question of whether the Eagle's career is over, as well. -- S.B.