There has been a lot of comparison lately between the summer of Sundin and this summer - the summer of "the Monster". But make no mistake about it, this is one heck of a tough decision for Gustavsson to make. The young goalie is still young...don't over-look that. At age 24, he has lost both parents - his mother very recently. He's been getting huge credit in Sweden for the improvement in his play, and NHL scouts and the media have tagged him as an all-but "can't miss prospect". He likely wants to play in a hockey city, and thus Colorado was on his list early, despite their woes last year...of course, like Toronto they had goaltending troubles last year...so perhaps the early days saw him looking at where he might get the best break early.
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Dallas despite having Marty Turco, really isn't as deep in the goaltending department as they used to be. Last year Fabian Brunstrom chose Dallas and managed to avoid the huge pressure from expectations of the Hockey mad media up north. By the end of the season, he was playing up to the advanced billing, but I seriously doubt he'd have done as well on a Canadian team that was out of play-off contention. Of course on the flip side, if Dallas gets their "mojo" back soon, playing on a winning team in Texas really isn't as exciting as a play-off run in hockey country.
If he had the best of both worlds, he'd likely want a 1 year contract in the south with a player option to renew or walk after one year...no GM would likely give him that.
Toronto is in the mix, but despite the efforts of Brian Burke, he's been slow to jump to a contract. Something is holding him back. The goaltending situation ahead of him in Toronto is such that he might see far more work depending on the health of Toskola....Burke might also be considering a trade of Toskola that would see Gustavsson and another less expensive goalie like Gerber sharing the load. All at once, that could be both exciting and frightening for a young import from Sweden.
The Leafs have some swedes on the current roster with Frogren, Stralman and Stalberg, and a potential addition with Carl Gunnarsson - yet another swedish defenceman....also involved in the wooing of forward Rickard Wallin. The question might be though, whether Brian Burke sees these players as fringe players to be traded or kept in the AHL. There has been a lot of movement towards Canadian and US players recently, and depending on who Gustavsson or his agent is listening to - there might be concern that "the Monster" would face a ton of pressure with far less patience in getting his game together. Justin Pogge back in 2008 was seen as a can't miss guy, but after being thrown to the wolves in 2009, his stock dropped ridiculously fast. No doubt this has not gone without notice.
So with his own personal life in upheaval, the 24 year old Swede is looking at a decision that will see him in a new city, many new friends, a new culture, and very likely pressure to sign at least a 3 year deal, for enough money to make him a press and fan focus for a long time. He has a lot of reasons to like Toronto, in many ways more like his homeland than Texas. The city has shown that it can not only accept Swedish born stars, but celebrate them as heroes. Life in Toronto makes him a star if he wants it. Guys like Wade Belak or Glen Healy had chances to become a fan favorite even though they spent a lot of time sitting. Socially, he'd be accepted as a "local" far faster in a city like Toronto, with less adjustment away from the rink. In Dallas, he'd be an interesting foreigner, and likely have the option of avoiding the spotlight if he chooses. With all the travel involved, out West, he might not see living in Dallas as a major change. He might see that travel as a reason not to go to Dallas. Perhaps he's tired of the long winters and looks forward to a mild Dallas Winter? Who knows?
All I can say is that in his shoes, given the way his own world has turned-upside down this year, I'd want to take my time too. Like many fans, I hope he chooses the Leafs because I think he'd be a great fit and a guy who could become a huge star in a hockey environment. Perhaps one day Torontonians will talk of their own three kroner - Salming, Sundin and Gustavsson.
In Dallas perhaps, when the media find him, the first question asked will always be: "What do you think of the Cowboys this year?"
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