The Vesa Toskala trade

Jean Lefebvre
March 04 2010 01:26PM

The peerless Kent Wilson eloquently expressed his thoughts (and, as it turns out, the thoughts of many Flames fans) earlier today on the Steve Staios acquisition.

The capper on that one is that it would not have been beyond belief had the Oilers been the club giving up the third-round draft choice for the privilege of dumping an onerous salary (the same way the Flames packaged a second-round pick with Wayne Primeau in the off-season swap with Toronto). Instead, it's the Flames who coughed up the pick, which explains all the excitement and joy in Edmonton and the grumbling and head-scratching in Calgary.

By comparison, the acquisition of netminder Vesa Toskala was met with greater approval by a Flames fanbase that had developed the habit of watching Curtis McElhinney starts covering their face with their hands and peeking through the fingers.

But even if you accept the suggestion Toaskala is a good backup (and recent performance certainly makes it possible to refute that claim) it's hard to see the value of adding a netminder who the Flames must pay the proprated portion of $4M.

Even if Toskala is superior to McElhinney (and again, not everyone will concede that point) there's certainly no question that Miikka Kiprusoff is better than Toskala.

So in effect, the more Toskala plays, the worse off the Flames will be in the long haul. With two back-to-backs left the rest of the way, let's say that the ideal number of Toskala starts for the remainder of the schedule in order to give Kiprusoff the rest he needs and to maximize his physical and mental condition is two.

If you give Toskala the front end of those two back-to-backs, that means he'll be facing the division-leading Canucks in Vancouver or the middling Bruins in Boston. Or you could give him the theoretically more difficult second game and throw him in against the Red Wings at the Saddledome and against the league-leading Capitals in Washington. Or mix and match the two games any way you please.

Given the circumstances and the opposition, what is a reasonable expectation of success for an average goaltender? Now what is a reasonable expectation for success for a goalie whose save percentage has been below .900 the past two seasons, who hasn't played a game since January and who will be guarding the cage for a team that has scored the second-fewest goals in the NHL?

In a best-case scenario, we're obviously talking about a four-point swing but isn't just as possible that there would be zero impact on the results regardless of whether the backup was Toskala or McElhinney?

Now what would be the potential impact if, in spite of the perceived overabundance of forwards in Calgary, the Flames had spent that $1.4M in cap wiggle room on (Alex Tanguay anyone?)offensive help?

As for the "Calgary needed a better alternative in case something happened to Kipper" argument, forget it. The Flames are facing an uphill struggle to make the playoffs with Kiprusoff, so any Plan B between the pipes certainly isn't going to cut it.

Lastly, another supposed point in the deal's favour is that the Flames have rid themselves of the additional season on McElhinney's contract. Considering that McElhinney was barely making the minimum and could have been expunged from the big-league roster any number of ways, that the Flames will actually be paying out more money because of what's left on impending UFA Toskala's contract this season and that the club still has to shell out for a new backup in 2010-11, it's hard to see the savings.

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 Kent Wilson
March 04 2010, 01:44PM
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Yeah, there's not much sense evident in the Toskala deal either. When I heard about it I was at lunch with a friend and I almost spit my beer at him in surprise (and despair).

In the end, I think is more of Sutter's "I know him so I like him" strategy.

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#2 Chemmy
March 04 2010, 01:47PM
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Toskala has an .874 save percentage. You're not beating anyone with him in net.

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#3 Kent Wilson
March 04 2010, 01:55PM
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Chemmy wrote:

Toskala has an .874 save percentage. You're not beating anyone with him in net.

And Leafs fans would know. I imagine you guys had celebratory parties when he was ushered out of town.

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#4 R O
March 04 2010, 01:58PM
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In isolation I can't get worked up over this trade. Toskala's EVSV% is actually higher than McElhinney's. Of course McElhinney's not played enough games to make his EVSV% mean much but in my mind it's not like our backup performances could get any worse, with either Toskala or McElhinney in nets.

Toskala's PKSV% is through the floor and that kind of thing is just not sustainable. The Leaves are just something else (in a bad way) when a man down.

And you're right that Kipper is better than Toskala, that's usually how the starter-backup relationship goes.

In the big picture though this trade is one of many that screams no direction, no sense of purpose. Change for the sake of change. This team needed an impact forward and didn't get it, there weren't even any attempts (and TSN is very good, they would have gotten wind of it I imagine), despite one being available in Wolski.

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#5 Tach
March 04 2010, 02:09PM
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The only saving grace on the Toskala deal is his contract expires next year, McElhinney had an additional year on his one way. Next year at camp Keetley, Irving and Shantz can duke it out for back up.

In any other context it makes no sense.

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#6 Domebeers.com
March 04 2010, 03:00PM
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I love this trade. We got a 4 million expiring contract for Mac. Seriously, what am I missing here? He goes away at the end of the year, we get that cap space. Cap space is the best player in the league, especially for this team.

I mean, we got bigger problems then who is going to be playing backup next year. What a blessing it would be for that to be the biggest worry.

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#7 Justin
March 04 2010, 03:35PM
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I agree with DB.

Even if Toskalol is the same as McBackUp, (and I don't think he will be, because McBackUp has 4 career wins) then we have cap space for next season, instead of paying #1 900K against the cap to suck so hard. As for his high salary, I don't think the owners care. 870k is a drop in the bucket for these guys. I wouldn't be surprised if the net worth of all of them is more then a couple billion.

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#8 Justin
March 04 2010, 03:35PM
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I agree with DB.

Even if Toskalol is the same as McBackUp, (and I don't think he will be, because McBackUp has 4 career wins) then we have cap space for next season, instead of paying #1 900K against the cap to suck so hard. As for his high salary, I don't think the owners care. 870k is a drop in the bucket for these guys. I wouldn't be surprised if the net worth of all of them is more then a couple billion.

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#9 rubbertrout
March 04 2010, 04:26PM
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Domebeers.com wrote:

I love this trade. We got a 4 million expiring contract for Mac. Seriously, what am I missing here? He goes away at the end of the year, we get that cap space. Cap space is the best player in the league, especially for this team.

I mean, we got bigger problems then who is going to be playing backup next year. What a blessing it would be for that to be the biggest worry.

Consider what you are going to have to pay for a backup next year. Is it going to be at or near (if not in excess of) CuMc's cap number? It is not like the NBA where the "expiring contract" gives them extra money to spend.

Check out this site for an interesting take on the cash side of things.

http://www.mc79hockey.com/?p=3353

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#11 Pat Steinberg
March 05 2010, 02:11AM
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Yeah, I'm not sure I understand the opposition to this trade guys. Look, Toskala isn't back next year and McElhinney isn't back next year. So that's a wash.

Fact is, Toskala has a 4 mil cap hit...but that is now only about 800 thou, so that's not much of a hit down the stretch. He's an updgrade at backup. He's gone at the end of the year as a UFA. What's the objection?

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#13 Kent Wilson
March 05 2010, 09:13AM
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Pat Steinberg wrote:

Yeah, I'm not sure I understand the opposition to this trade guys. Look, Toskala isn't back next year and McElhinney isn't back next year. So that's a wash.

Fact is, Toskala has a 4 mil cap hit...but that is now only about 800 thou, so that's not much of a hit down the stretch. He's an updgrade at backup. He's gone at the end of the year as a UFA. What's the objection?

Toskala is such a marginal upgrade over Cumac that that point is moot. Completely moot. Toskala, without hyperbole, has been one of the worst NHL goalies in the league since the lock-out.

If Kipper goes down, the team is out of luck with Toskala as much as they would have been with Cumac.

I'm not against this trade, but not I'm not for it either. It's shuffling deck chairs.

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