Sunday, June 24, 2007

The goalie deals
Leafs turn to Toskala

This, to me, is the most interesting of the moves made over the past few days. Leafs GM John Ferguson has already taken more than a few shots on local sports radio for the move, and I’ll be the first to agree there are concerns.

Just looking at Vesa Toskala alone, I can think of two:

1. He’s never been a starter in the NHL, and
2. He’s an unrestricted free agent next summer

Now, those aren’t the big issues they could turn out to be if Toskala steals the starting role and agrees to sign long-term (at a reasonable rate) in Toronto, but if I’m his agent, that’s not my advice. I’d say: “Outplay Raycroft, win the starting role, play 55+ games and get this team into the playoffs.” All of those should be reasonable targets, and they’ll put Toskala into that $4- to $5-million range that we’ve seen most starters settle into.

Ferguson has made overtures about signing him to a deal immediately, but what leverage does Toskala have now? And why ink a deal when you finally have that chance to step into the limelight and turn a few heads in the Eastern Conference?

As for the long-term strategy involved here, well, as with a lot of the Maple Leafs’ transactions the past decade or so, there isn’t one. Ferguson has to get this franchise back into the playoffs pronto or he’ll be shown the door, and this deal positions them well to do so given (a) how close they were last season and (b) the relative weakness of the Eastern Conference.

Including last year’s deal that saw Tuukka Rask moved to Boston for Andrew Raycroft, Toronto’s kept just one first-round pick in the past five years (2006, Jiri Tlusty) and has just one player in the system picked higher than 44th position since 2002.

Even if you’ve got a contender, that’s a fool’s strategy. I would have drafted Alexei Cherepanov and moved another asset for Toskala (or Vokoun).

Mark Bell’s the forgotten man in this deal, and rightly so given the garbage year he had, but he’s still got potential. The downside is that his $2.167-million deal likely means no more significant upgrades up front for Toronto.

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At 3:26 a.m., June 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly right James. This is why I despise the Maple Leafs organization. Year after year of short term thinking ensured that they have won nothing since the 1960s...and with an ownership with an apparent goal of 'let's just make the playoffs' ensuring a short term outlook for every Leaf's GM, it may well be another 50 years before the Maple Leafs can win another Cup.

At 8:55 a.m., June 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James, its easy to say in hindsight that you would have taken Cheraponov at 13 and dealt for Toskala later. But, the fact is that the Toskala deal was already done, and in your latest post, you yourself admitted that you couldnt have imagined Cheraponov falling that low. So how could Fergie have known?

At 9:16 a.m., June 25, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

How would Toskala standing on his head and leading the Leafs into the playoffs, thus earning $4m a season be bad, exactly?

At 10:03 a.m., June 25, 2007, Blogger Knotwurth Mentioning said...

It's a bad strategy because the truth is that Raycroft can manage if he has a healthy team in front of him, and the Leafs are in no shape to be throwing away their future for the present, having missed the playoffs twice in a row. They should be taking the chance to rebuild to a top-notch club through the draft, not ditching their picks so that they can pick up a starter-b goaltender.

If they move Raycroft and get some valuable prospects or something of the sort, then this trade could work out. But as it stands, having the two goaltenders isn't what the Leafs need -- they need to have some depth for when their top players get injured, since that seems to be their inevitable downfall of late!

At 11:42 a.m., June 25, 2007, Anonymous Matt Gunn said...

I think grabbing Toskala is a definite upgrade over Raycroft, it just seems the least needed upgrade for the Leafs.

Now, I'm not Raycroft supporter, but shouldn't the Leafs have used those draft pick assets to acquire a scoring forward or quality defenseman instead?

I believe Toskala will be a very quality #1 goaltender in this league, but it seems Ferguson has his priorities confused.

At 12:48 p.m., June 25, 2007, Blogger ninja said...

In order to comment on Leafs' priorities, perhaps one should understand team needs. Let the record show Raycroft is the weakest link.

At 1:15 p.m., June 25, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Goaltending was definitely the Achilles Heel of the Leafs last year, so nabbing Toskala and inking him long term is a high priority.

But they squander so many future assets, and they never acquire any youth from other organizations. It's not like they'll turn around and dump a veteran on another team to get back some of the picks they lost... those future assets are gone and won't be recovered.

It's kind of funny... because the Leafs do a decent job drafting when they do make picks. On their roster, they have several draft picks... Colaiacovo, Stajan, Steen, Wellwood, Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Kaberle, White... And they've traded good picks in bad trades like Boyes and Rask.

And when they did dump veterans once, they made this swindle of a deal with Jersey:

Toronto Maple Leafs traded Dave Ellett, Doug Gilmour and a 3rd round selection (previously acquired - Andre Lakos) to the New Jersey Devils for Jason Smith, Steve Sullivan and the rights to Alyn McCauley.

Hey, wait a minute, where'd those guys go?

At 1:18 p.m., June 25, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

Toskala was 9th in the NHL in GAA. Raycroft was 32nd. Toskala was 20th in SV%, Raycroft was 35th.

The Leafs' defense gave up the 7th fewest shots in the east while the Leafs' offense scored the fourth most goals. I watched 82 Leafs games last season and Raycroft was brutal.

At 3:41 p.m., June 25, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

I forgot to mention that Bell's addition means that the Leafs are around $44M in salary. On a $48M cap that's only $4M but if it goes to "$50ishM" as the commish mentioned then the Leafs will still have enough cash to upgrade.

Or they could trade Kubina or McCabe.

At 3:44 p.m., June 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They could trade McCabe to the Islanders for a draft pick and use the savings for other impact players.
I'm sure the Islanders will want to make some sort of splash when Smyth inevitably bolts in six days.
Speaking of the cap, have the bean counters at head office come up with a figure yet or is it dependant on whether Lou can sign Gomez and Ralfalski.

At 4:20 p.m., June 25, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

Hey, wait a minute, where'd those guys go?

I think one of them captained his next team to the Stanley Cup Finals.

At 11:33 p.m., June 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who doesn't believe Raycroft wasn't the biggest problem, and that Toskala isn't an upgrade on him is too stupid to talk about hockey. Ever.


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