SUNRISE, Fla. (CP) - The Eagle has landed in South Florida.
Goaltender Ed Belfour signed a $750,000 US, one-year contract with the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, extending his career after undergoing another back surgery. "We've added depth and we've added some quality to the position," Panthers GM Mike Keenan said during a conference call. "I think it just strengthens the team and strengthens our position overall."
The 41-year-old goaltender became a free agent this summer when the Toronto Maple Leafs chose not to pick up an option on his contract. Belfour made $4.56 million last season.
He had back surgery in April and had been linked with the Detroit Red Wings earlier this off-season. In Florida, he'll likely split goaltending duties with Alex Auld.
"A healthy Eddie Belfour in our goaltending situation does nothing but increase the competitive value of that position," Keenan said. "It's up to the players to sort it out from there."
Questions remain about how effective the future Hall of Famer can be at this stage of his career.
Belfour is coming off a lacklustre season with the Maple Leafs, going 22-22-4 with a 3.29 goals-against average. He didn't play after March 10 because of his injured back, which has plagued him during his career.
The specifics weren't released but Belfour could almost double his base salary if he hits all of his incentives.
"I'm very comfortable, knowing Eddie as well as I do, that he will be able to meet the criteria in terms of rehab and have himself prepared come the fall," Keenan said.
Belfour has 457 career wins - trailing only Patrick Roy in NHL history - with Chicago, Dallas, San Jose and Toronto. While playing for the Blackhawks, he won the Vezina Trophy in 1991 and '93.
Belfour, who backstopped the Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup, also has 88 playoff victories, good for fourth on the all-time list behind Roy, Grant Fuhr and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.
Keenan also said that forward Gary Roberts will be back with the team next season. Roberts sought a trade to Toronto earlier this off-season to be closer to his daughter, who will attend school in the city.
"We certainly had some discussions about some private issues, some family issues, with him and now we're moving forward at this point," Keenan said. "Gary will be at training camp in Florida come September."
Roberts, 40, has one year and $2.25 million remaining on the contract he signed with Florida before the 2005-06 season.