Leafs Close In On Toskala

According to the Globe and Mail, it appears that the Toronto Maple Leafs may trade their first round selection in this draft (13th overall) to the San Jose Sharks for the rights to goaltender Vesa Toskala. It mentions in the article that the first rounder would be on a condition the team could agree to an extension with Toskala.

This would be the 2nd year in a row the team would have moved a first round pick to get a goalie.

Here is a link to the article: http://www.globesports.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070622.wsptleafs22/GSStory/GlobeSportsHockey/home

There may be other assets involved in the deal but it appears the 1st rounder and Toskala are the main parts of this deal. It also appears that Raycroft and Toskala will share the duties in net for the Leafs.

This contradicts earlier statements that current goaltender Andrew Raycroft was going to be asked again to carry the load as the Leafs number 1 goaltender. The Leafs would then look to acquire a backup that would be an upgrade over JS Aubin.

(see article by Howard Berger: http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=8137)

But Toskala appears on the verge of being a bonifide starter in the NHL. He was buried behind Evgeny Nabokov thanks to Nabokov carrying the bigger contract and the no-trade clause.

This will be a fairly bold move by GM John Ferguson. Toskala at least has strung together several decent seasons as the Sharks backup. In fact for a time he did win the starting job from Nabokov only to lose it thanks to injury.

Losing yet another young asset though would be a tough pill to swallow. It would be nice if Toronto would actually keep their picks and develop them themselves instead of consistently getting players from other organizations.

But I guess this is the byproduct of having a lame duck GM who needs to do something to save his job. Toskala would be an upgrade in goal and maybe that alone will get the Leafs the few points the team needed the last two years to secure a playoff spot.

This also has the trickle down effect. Signing Toskala to an extension will probably mean a hefty raise for the 30 year old Finn from his current 1.75 million salary. Considering he will be a UFA after this coming season, he will likely look for a large pay increase.

Giving him a raise would likely cost the team any chance of getting a good forward on the free agent market. If the team does keep both Toskala and Raycroft, they are looking at probably tying up over 5 million for their goaltending. With so much money invested in their D as is. They will again go with a forward core that is made up with several 3rd or 4th line talents.

Maybe the goaltending upgrade will make up for this but even if this helps them make the playoffs, they need significant improvements up front. They are still far too weak at forward to even be considered anything more than first round fodder for the top teams in the East at best. It will be interesting how this plays out and the ripple effect it has on the Leafs roster.