Matter of fact, he’ll be lucky to hold on to his starter’s job.
Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson made a big splash before the NHL draft by acquiring netminder Vesa Toskala and forward Mark Bell from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a package of draft picks, including a first-rounder Friday night.
“It’s going to be a real good one-two punch,” Ferguson said of his new goaltending duo.
Raycroft, 27, appeared in 72 games last season, posting a 37-25-9 record with two shutouts and a 2.99 goals-against average. Toskala, 30, shared the net with Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose and finished with a 26-10-1 mark with a 2.35 GAA.
“I think every player in the world wants to play in Canada at one point in their careers,” Toskala told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from Tampere, Finland. “The fans, the media, people live for hockey in that country, especially in Toronto. I’m actually very, very excited to take on that challenge.”
Boston and Phoenix were also said to be interested in his services. Toskala wasn’t surprised when the phone call came.
“I was prepared for something to happen,” he said. “I had thought that Toronto was one of the places I might end up. So it wasn’t a shock. . . . it’s a big change though, coming from California to Canada, it’s huge.”
Toskala, who has one year left on a contract that pays him only US$1.375 million, was arguably the most attractive goalie available on the trade market this off-season.
“What we’ve created here is a real healthy internal competition and a tandem that is going to give us and our coaches and our club a little more flexibility in goal,” Ferguson said. “We thought 72 (games) for Andrew, while he demonstrated that he was capable, was probably not the right mix for us.”
Bell, who still has $4.5 million left on his deal for another two years, had a disappointing season in San Jose. He recorded just 21 points (10-11) and 83 penalty minutes in 71 games. San Jose used the Leafs’ first-round pick (13th overall) to trade up with St. Louis for the No. 9 pick, which the Sharks used to select Ottawa 67s centre Logan Couture.
Toronto also gave up its second-round pick this year (No. 44) and a fourth-round pick in 2009. The Sharks also sent the second-rounder to the Blues along with a third-round pick in 2008.
Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice said it would be premature to write off Raycroft.
“I think that’s a big mistake,” Maurice said. “(Raycroft had) 37 wins last season. We need great goaltending for 82 games. We look at this more as a tandem combination. We have two guys that I expect to be very very good for us when they’re in.”
The odd man out is Raycroft’s backup J.S. Aubin, who went 3-5-2 with a 3.43 GAA last season and is not expected to return.
“Now I can say with complete confidence the Toronto Maple Leafs have strong goaltending no matter who is in net every single night,” Maurice said.
Toskala wasn’t ready to anoint himself No. 1 in Toronto out of respect to his new teammate.
“Raycroft is a good goalie, it’ll be good competition,” Toskala said. “I hope to see more ice time than last year, but you never know.”
Ferguson’s next task is to get Toskala signed to an extension.
“We’ve had good conversations,” Ferguson said. “I think we’ll have a night to sleep on things and we’ll see what the balance of the weekend brings.”
Toronto finished the regular season with a 40-31-11 mark, good for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point out of a playoff spot.
“We sat down at the end of the year and really took stock of what we thought we needed to do and we checked a couple of those off today,” Ferguson said. “Some size and grit up front, really shore up our tandem in net and reduce our goals against, and we think we’ve gone a long way to accomplishing both those things here today.”