|Sharks ship Toskala to Leafs, trade picks to Blues to pick Couture|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 22 June 2007 15:15|
The Sharks first traded goalie Vesa Toskala and forward Mark Bell to Toronto for three picks in the first big deal of NHL draft day, resolving their goaltending logjam and dumping the underachieving Bell's exorbitant contract in one move.
San Jose then packaged two of those draft choices - the 13th and 44th - along with a third-rounder in 2008 in a deal with St. Louis to snag the ninth overall pick. The Sharks used it on Couture, a highly rated playmaker from the OHL's Ottawa 67's, Wilson's former junior team.
The moves capped a busy few hours for the Sharks, who had no first-round picks entering the day. But such aggression is no surprise to San Jose's faithful: The club has a long history of risky draft-day movement under Wilson and predecessor Dean Lombardi, repeatedly trading up to grab its favorite prospects.
Wilson also found time to finalize a four-year, $14 million contract for defenseman Craig Rivet, who will return to the club he joined in a late-season trade.
The Sharks apparently felt they needed to move up to snag Couture away from the Florida Panthers, who had the 10th pick. Brian Kilrea, the 67's longtime coach, recommended Couture to Wilson despite scouts' concerns about Couture's slow first skating stride - the same complaint often lodged against Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose's high-scoring right wing.
Toskala teamed up with Evgeni Nabokov over the previous three seasons to form one of the NHL's best goaltending tandems. But both players' desire to be starters prompted Wilson to give up a homegrown talent in exchange for draft picks.
The Maple Leafs picked up a tested veteran goalie who will challenge Andrew Raycroft for the starting job. Despite playing behind Nabokov down the stretch, Toskala went 26-10-1 for San Jose last season with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage - both better numbers than Raycroft.
Toskala led the Sharks into the second round of the playoffs in 2006, then improved his statistics last season despite injuries. Though Nabokov - who won the Calder Trophy in San Jose in 2001 - makes much more money, he might be a cheaper long-term investment than the 30-year-old Toskala, who is only under contract through next season.
And thanks to the tireless work of their late goaltending coach, Warren Strelow, the Sharks have several prospects who hope to fill Toskala's seat on the bench, including Taylor Dakers and Dimitri Patzold.
Bell flopped in his only season in San Jose, managing just 11 goals and 10 assists in 71 games after being projected as Joe Thornton's left wing when he joined the club in a trade with Chicago.
Bell, arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and felony hit-and-run before he even played a game in San Jose, has two years and $4.5 million remaining on the contract he signed after joining the Sharks.
The Sharks also picked up a fourth-round choice in 2009 from the Leafs.