While Toskala lands in Toronto, future still up in air for Fernandez
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The San Jose Sharks, appearing to be on the verge of making a major move on the free-agent market (can anyone say Chris Drury?), moved backup netminder Vesa Toskala and troubled forward Mark Bell to the Toronto Maple Leafs for draft picks a few hours before the start of the draft Friday.
The move clears up a crowded and potentially ugly goaltending logjam in San Jose, where former rookie of the year Evgeni Nabokov has reassumed his starting position once and for all.
The move also creates a potentially uncomfortable situation in Toronto, where the Leafs had lost faith in last season's starter Andrew Raycroft, acquired by GM John Ferguson at the 2006 draft for goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask. Raycroft tied a franchise record with 37 wins, but his inconsistency (he had a 2.99 goals-against and .894 save percentage) in part cost the Leafs a playoff berth for the second straight season.
Although the Leafs had not signed Toskala, who is 49-15-5 over the last two seasons, to a long-term extension, that is expected to be done shortly. Toskala could become an unrestricted free agent next season and would likely sign a two-year deal at an average salary of more than $4 million annually.
More goalie scuttlebutt
Although Boston GM Peter Chiarelli would not discuss negotiations, it appears the Bruins, believing the price tag for Toskala was too high, are in pursuit of Minnesota netminder Manny Fernandez.
Rumors suggested the Bruins were looking to move Glen Murray, but the Wild reportedly balked at taking on the winger, who is expensive and starting to break down. If, however, the deal comes to fruition, Chiarelli will be taking a huge gamble on a netminder that still has two years left on a contract (a $4.3-million annual cap hit) and who has proven to be emotionally fragile. Not exactly the greatest combination for a goaltender going to a team that looks to struggle yet again to stay in the playoff hunt.
The Kings are off the board
The first big surprise of the draft came early when the Los Angeles Kings took Thomas Hickey, a 5-foot-10, 182-pound defenseman from Seattle of the Western Hockey League with the fifth overall pick. Most pre-draft scouting reports had him as a late first-round pick or early second-round selection. Kings GM Dean Lombardi apparently believed there was more upside to Hickey, a native of Calgary, than the more highly touted Karl Alzner, who was selected next by Washington.
Looking into the crystal ball
Speaking of kids who will bear watching, two high-profile players, Angelo Esposito and Alexei Cherepanov, who were considered at various times to be possible No. 1 overall selections over the past few years, dropped precipitously as predicted.
The New York Rangers selected Cherepanov with the 17th overall pick, while Pittsburgh, a team chock full of talented youngsters, selected Esposito (no relation to Phil and Tony) with the 20th overall pick.
When all is said and done, both teams could end up having the best two forwards of the draft.
The old men return
The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed veteran forwards Mark Recchi, 39, and Gary Roberts, 41, to one-year deals. The move should help the youthful Penguins in their bid to move from surprise playoff competitor last season to Stanley Cup contender.
The return of Roberts is especially positive for the Penguins given his maniacal devotion to physical training and preparation. Roberts, acquired from Florida at the trade deadline, was one of the Penguins' best players in their five-game loss to Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs.
Let's go Hamilton
When the Nashville Predators' first pick came up at No. 23, a group of fans in draft jerseys took up a "Let's go Hamilton" chant. They apparently didn't hear about owner Craig Leipold's decision to shut down Jim Balsillie's bid to buy the team.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
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2007 NHL DRAFT
Americans made history, prospects' dreams came true ... and there was even a few NHL trades. Here's a recap of the NHL draft:
• Complete coverage
• Kane, vanRiemsdyk make American history
• Aliu makes his own history on Day 2
• Complete list of 2007 picks
• Fantasy: What future will bring for first-rounders
• Past No. 1 picks
WEEKEND TRADES• Predators' exodus continues with goalie Vokoun
• Sharks deal Toskala, Bell to Maple Leafs
• Trade Tracker