Boston Bruins goaltender Byron Dafoe ended his holdout on Friday, signing a three-year contract that could have him back in goal as soon as next week.
"Four or five practices and I should be ready to go," said Dafoe, who has been skating every day on his own in preparation for his anticipated return. "I want to play as soon as possible, and I want to make sure that I'm at the highest level before I enter a game."
Negotiations have been stalled for months. But as the season progressed Dafoe felt an urgency that led him to call general manager Harry Sinden on Friday morning to request a meeting. After 40 minutes, the two had a deal.
"If it wasn't going to get done in a day or two, I was going to look elsewhere," Dafoe said during an afternoon news conference. "I called up Harry today and came in and got the deal done."
The value of the contract was not immediately available.
Dafoe originally asked for a three-year contract worth $4 million annually, but he has since lowered his number. The team had not improved from its offer of $3.15 million going backwards, in fact, to $3 million but did offer Dafoe a second chance at arbitration.
"We're glad that what turned out to be a bit of an ordeal for all of us is over," Sinden said.
"Amen to that," Dafoe said.
"We both extended ourselves more than we initially felt we would," he said. "We're both happy. I can honestly say that I'm happy."
Dafoe was second in save percentage and third with a 1.99 goals against average last season while leading the league with 10 shutouts. With him in goal, the Bruins were expected to improve on last year's second-round playoff exit and perhaps even make it to the Stanley Cup finals.
But Dafoe passed up a chance to take the team to arbitration this summer, choosing instead to use the leverage of a holdout. And Sinden didn't budge, sticking with his initial offer.
"Harry's notorious for these negotiations," Dafoe said. "We all know that he's a shrewd businessman."
Things seemed to go Dafoe's way when backups Rob Tallas and John Grahame couldn't stop the Bruins from opening the season without a victory in their first nine games (0-5-4) their worst start since 1964-65. The team was also missing its top goal-scorer from last year, Dmitri Khristich, who was set free after winning a $2.8 million arbitration award.
"It was very hard for me to watch, win or lose. But they've definitely turned the corner these last four or five games," Dafoe said. "Holding out is a very lonely place to be."
But Boston has won their last three games, including Thursday night's 7-3 victory over te Tampa Bay Lightning, to improve to 3-5-4.
Sinden said he did not allow the team's early troubles or its recent success to influence the negotiations. But he said that coach Pat Burns was "very happy he's got his No. 1 goalie back."
"I was trying to keep patient, and hopefully time would resolve it," Sinden said. "I hadn't reached the point where I had thrown up my hands."
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