San Jose Sharks: Possibly Trading Back For Vesa Toskala?

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IMay 1, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 26:  Vesa Toskala #35  of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on against The New York Islanders during their game at the Nassau Coliseum on February 26, 2009 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Before I begin, let me just state that I wonder if this has ever happened before: a player gets traded from team A to team B, and then less than three seasons later is traded directly from team B to team A.

If the San Jose Sharks want to shake up their roster this offseason, it could involve the return of a former Shark to San Jose.

Perhaps San Jose may look to try and reacquire Toronto Maple Leafs goal-tender Vesa Toskala.

Now whether or not San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson would want to make a trade that would basically show he feels as if he made a mistake in originally dealing Toskala away, we have to wait and see—but it may not be a bad idea for Team Teal.

The only reason this could possibly work is because Toskala hasn't exactly won over the Maple Leaf fan base, considering he has posted less than stellar numbers.  But then again, Toronto isn't known for having a great defensive corps. In two seasons with the Leafs Toskala has posted an .897 save percentage—clearly lower than Nabokov's .910 over the past two seasons.

However, Nabokov's save percentage in the playoffs since Toskala was traded is .901, but while he had Toskala as a formidable backup, Nabokov's playoff save percentage was a blistering .928.

Perhaps there is no correlation.  Perhaps it may be a stretch to say that Nabokov only plays better when he knows there is competitor for the No .1 spot that is sitting on the bench waiting to steal his job.

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But perhaps it is not a stretch to think of it this way. Granted, during the 2007-2008 campaign Nabokov was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy—but that was the year where Nabokov had a target on his back to prove whether he was the right guy to keep around and to prove the worth of his contract.

But now that Nabokov is the only option the Sharks have in net, Nabokov may lack motivation. It is hard to say such a thing about a professional athlete since the fire to win a championship should be more than enough motivation, but Nabokov seems a little bit too laid back and not as fiery as other goaltenders.

Nabokov's poor performance in this year's playoffs combined with the fact that he is approaching 34 years of age should lead the Sharks looking to upgrade at the goal-tender position. Back-up Brian Boucher is clearly not the long-term answer and none of the Sharks' minor-league prospects are ready for the NHL.

Bringing Toskala back would once again put pressure on Nabokov to perform, as with his no-trade clause it is highly doubtful that the Sharks could find away to deal their current No. 1 goaltender. The one-two punch in net would once again give the Sharks stability between the posts, which they haven't truly had since Toskala left.

Boucher showed at the end of this season he is not the guy to take over long term if a serious injury were to occur.

The fact is that right now Nabokov is not playing well enough for how much the Sharks are leaning on him to perform. Obviously, players like Nabokov (who have no-trade clauses in their contracts) want to stay in San Jose.

That being said, bringing Toskala back would be a slap in the face to Nabokov, making it known that either has to step up his game, ride the bench, or be willing to wave his no-trade clause and leave an area that he obviously has enjoyed playing in.

Now, there are other options out there for an upgrade at goaltender but any other trade for a more marquee goalie would involve giving up a lot more value than it would to get Toskala back from Toronto.

In 2005-06 with the Sharks, Toskala posted a solid .910 save percentage in the playoffs and the Sharks were an overtime goal away from going up 3-0 in their second-round series against the Oilers, all but guaranteeing them a trip to the Western Conference finals.

Granted they ended up losing that series in six games, but Toskala kept his team in every game, and the goals he allowed were not those of the back-breaker variety that Nabokov has been known to let in throughout his career.

It was also evident that the Sharks played better in front of Toskala while the two goaltenders were splitting time between 2005-2007.

Assuming Toskala wouldn't come at too much of a price, it ought to be something Doug Wilson should look into—but seeing that he just traded him away, it's highly unlikely.

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