One year after trading with Boston for Andrew Raycroft, the Toronto Maple Leafs GM made another splash Friday, reeling in Vesa Toskala from the San Jose Sharks – by far the most attractive goalie available on the trade market this off-season.
“I heard that five minutes ago, I’m really excited,” Toskala told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from his native Tampere, Finland. “I was prepared for something to happen. 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.”
Forward Mark Bell also comes in the deal for a package of draft picks: either a first-rounder in ’07 or ’08 (San Jose’s option), a second-round pick in ’07 and a 2009 fourth-round pick. The Leafs added some protection in case the Sharks chose the first-rounder in ’08 – San Jose can’t take it if it’s top-10 overall. In that case, they get a 2009 first-round selection.
Toskala, 30, has one year remaining on a contract that pays him only US$1.375 million. Sources told The Canadian Press that Ferguson was already working on signing him to an extension.
Ferguson has been under immense pressure in his market to make a big move and he made a great one Friday. Toskala, 26-10-1 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .908 save percentage this past season. has long been viewed as a capable No. 1 goalie but had to share the net with Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose.
But Toskala wasn’t ready to proclaim himself No. 1 in Toronto out of respect to Raycroft.
“Raycroft is a good goalie, it’ll be good competition,” said Toskala. “I hope to see more ice time than last year, but you never know.”
He’s pumped about coming to a hockey-crazed market.
“I think every player in the world wants to play in Canada at one point in their careers,” said Toskala. “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.”
That Sharks GM Doug Wilson didn’t receive any roster players suggests he will be busy come the July 1 opening of free agency.
The Boston Bruins, according to a source, were also heavily involved in trying to land Toskala. The deal might have cost Toronto having to pick up Bell, who disappointed this past season in San Jose and has $4.5 million left on his deal over the next two seasons. The Leafs were actually in talks to land Bell back at the February trade deadline but the deal never materialiazed.
The Bruins, meanwhile, will continue to look for an upgrade in goal.
“There are a lot of goalies out there,” Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told reporters Friday.
Chiarelli has reportedly been in talks with the Minnesota Wild about goalie Manny Fernandez, who became expendable when Nicklas Backstrom replaced him as the starter and was signed to a $6.2-million, two-year extension. Fernandez, 32, has $9.25 million left over the final two years of his contract.
The Phoenix Coyotes are also on the lookout for help in goal.
Toronto’s big move early Friday came on the heels of a big trade late Thursday night between Chicago and Calgary, one that still hadn’t been made official. But sources confirmed the Blackhawks unloaded defenceman Adrian Aucoin and the $8 million that was left over the final two years on his contract to the Flames for Andrei Zyuzin. The deal required Aucoin to waive his no-trade clause, which he finally did.
The Flames needed to acquire a top-four defenceman because both Brad Stuart and Roman Hamrlik are expected to be lost to free agency.