Toronto probably wouldn't have goaltending issues if not for an awful 2006 trade
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Garret Sparks impressed Monday night when he recorded a shutout in his NHL debut. Sparks is only on the Toronto roster because the team continues to have goaltending problems, something that has become a hallmark of the Leafs for years.
Sparks is the seventh goaltender to man the Toronto crease in four years.
The Leafs have two possible starters this season: Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer.
Bernier continues to turn in at-times terrible performances, which have kept him from becoming a go-to goalie for years now, and Reimer is currently battling an injury.
Like Bernier, however, Reimer has never been consistently good for Toronto. The Maple Leafs' continued failure to find stable goaltending is a stark reminder of all that has hampered Toronto since a 2006 trade that went down as one of the worst goaltending trades in NHL history.
On the first day of the 2006 NHL Draft, then-Toronto GM John Ferguson Jr. decided to trade netminding prospect Tuukka Rask to the Boston Bruins for fellow goaltender Andrew Raycroft. The deal came one year after the Leafs selected Rask with their first-round pick (21st overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft, but Toronto's front office chose to put its hopes in a different goaltending prospect, Justin Pogge, rather than keep both Pogge and Rask.
As the years progress, the trade grows more embarrassing for the Leafs. Here's a look at how all of the involved characters are doing now:
Tuukka Rask: The Finnish native started his North American hockey career in 2007-08, two years after he was drafted. Rask quickly proved he was a solid prospect, earning a .905 and a .920 save percentage, respectively, in his first two seasons with the Providence Bruins in the AHL. He made the jump to the NHL in 2009-10 and supplanted Bruins goalie Tim Thomas as the starter for that season before spending the next two years as the Bruins' backup goalie. Rask regained the starting role when Thomas decided to take a year off during the 2012-13 season. Thomas was subsequently traded and Rask has been the Bruins' starting goalie since. Now a premier goaltender, Rask led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013 and won the Vezina Trophy for the 2013-14 season as the league's best netminder.
Andrew Raycroft: The goalie had one decent season with Toronto, as he tied Ed Belfour for the Leafs' record for most wins in a season with 37 victories in the 2006-07 season, but his save percentage (.894) left a lot to be desired. Raycroft struggled in the beginning of 2007-08 and lost his job to Vesa Toskala. The Leafs bought out Raycroft's contract at the end of the season, and the goalie went on to play for three different teams in the next four years before his NHL career ended. Adding insult to injury for the Leafs was a later claim by the Bruins that they had intended to release Raycroft instead of trade him, meaning the Leafs could have gotten Raycroft without having to give up anything.
Justin Pogge: The Leafs' high hopes for Pogge were never realized. He played seven total games in the NHL -- all in the 2008-09 season -- and posted a 1-4-1 record with a .844 save percentage and a 4.36 goals-against average. He played for three years in the ECHL and AHL after that 2008-09 season before taking his goaltending career to Europe. Pogge currently plays in Sweden.
Aside from the individual results, the impact of the trade on the teams is unmistakable. The Bruins have had two different starting goaltenders since the trade (Thomas and Rask). The Leafs, meanwhile, relied on goaltending platoons and have had nine goalies see significant time in net (Bernier, Reimer, Ben Scrivens, Jonas Gustavsson, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Vesa Toskala, Curtis Joseph, Raycroft, Jean Sebastien Aubin) since the Rask trade.
The Leafs did not have the benefit of hindsight in 2006, but this trade will always go down as one of the worst in team history.