Raycroft, Rumours, and Anti-Leafs Ranting
As anticipated, on Draft Day the Leafs moved to solidify their # 1 position by trading Finnish prospect Tuukka Rask for former Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft. The key to the deal is obviously 'former Calder Trophy winner'. Yes, Rask was the top goalie at the World Juniors but for every Roberto Luongo, Jose Theodore, and Kari Lehtonen that has won that award there is a Yevgeny Tarasoc, Pauli Jacks, Jamie Storr, and Jimmy Waite. Rask could fall anywhere between the two levels.
While adding Raycroft as the # 1 is a gamble (of course, I was in favour of gambling with Aubin/Telly) it is far less so than mortgaging the team's future for a Giguere or Nabokov to hold down the fort until Rask (hopefully) develops into a starter. He has already proven that he can be a # 1 (2003-2004: 29-18-9, 2.05GAA, .926SV%). Like many NHLers that did not play during the lockout, Raycroft struggled mightily (2005-2006: 8-19-0, 3.71GAA, .879SV%).
Raycroft will find his pre-lockout stride. The renewed confidence of not just a starting job but a new long-term deal in addition to a full pre-season and training camp will stand Raycroft in good stead. If I had to wager, I would say that Aubin will be the backup with Tellqvist most likely being moved (if Pogge is with the Marlies then it'll be a Pogge-Racine duo) or Telly backing up Pogge if Racine continues with the Memphis Riverkings in the CHL.
Ken Campbell of the Toronto Star is reporting that the Leafs are trying to shore up one of their weak spots by landing one of the top defencemen in the league in Chris Pronger. Unfortunately, we can't do like we did with Cujo (maybe that explains the next item) and outbid the Oilers. they are demanding Kaberle and Steen (not a good move as I'll show later) which is too much for a team that is supposed to be BUILDING A TEAM after years of mortgaging the future. Maybe that's why JFJ has never mentioned any sort of plan. He's just continuing the old plan, bad contracts, old players, just enough results to prevent anarchy.
Well, after seeing the Hartford Whalers win the cup in their SECOND Finals trip in four years Leafs fans will not be too happy to see more young players leaving (ie. Alyn McCauley and Brad Boyes for Owen Nolan) to have their best years elsewhere while the Leafs get older players on the decline. Granted, Pronger is not on a steep decline but he has logged about 30 minutes per game for 12 seasons. He's going to start breaking down (since he's always been injury prone this will only get worse) and it will be in Toronto if JFJ has his way.
Geez, the reaction to Darren Dreger of Sportsnet writing that he thought that the Leafs were 'the most intriguing option' for the Oilers garnered A LOT of reaction. Most postings average 15-30 replies. This one had 117 mostly blinkered, frothing at the mouth, anti-Leafs comments. The most ridiculous comments alternately stated that Alexander Steen was a terrible prospect or that Tomas Kaberle was over-rated and over-paid.
In his rookie campaign Steen put up 18-27-45 in 75 games to rank 8th in rookie scoring. He placed ahead of such highly praised rookies as Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. Sure he slowed down in the latter stages of the season but he had never played more than 40 games in a season.
As for Tomas Kaberle, he was fifth in defencemen scoring, 9-58-67 in 82 games ahead of, among others, Chris Pronger. Both had similar +/- of -1 and 2 respectively. While Tomas, at age 28, just signed a contract that will pay him $4.25M/yr Pronger is set to receive an average of $6.25M/yr over the next 4 years that will take him from 32 to 36 years. And as much as Pronger plays Kaberle actually averaged 28:10 per game compared to 27:59. I would say that Kaberle is the better option for the Leafs rather than trading youth to get a player who has played most of his best years. I would rather see JFJ rescind the deal he's offered McCabe and use that money to get a better deal on a replacement like Aaron Ward or Jay McKee.