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Getting to know Andrew Raycroft

For better or for worse, Jose Theodore is gone. Colorado didn't want to pay $4.5 million a year. Washington did, and that's that. There was some talk today that the Avs would end up with Cristobal Huet, but that turned out to be false (and thank goodness - Huet went to the Blackhawks for a whopping $5.65 million per year).

Instead, the Avalanche signed Andrew Raycroft to a 1 year, $800,000 deal (a significant cut from the $2.2 million he was scheduled to make this year before the Leafs bought him out). Raycroft is a bit of a low-cost gamble for the Avs. He could end being a steal, or he could end up...hey, how about that Peter Budaj.

Personally, I like this deal. There wasn't much on the free agent market worth the moola, and so I'd rather see Giguere take a flyer on a guy like Raycroft than overpay someone like, say Alex Auld. And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the one-year deal for Raycroft puts the Avs in perfect position to make a bid for Buffalo's Ryan Miller next summer. Miller is reportedly close to John-Michael Liles and his contract is up next year, so let the hysteria commence.

Getting back to Raycroft, Sean from Down Goes Brown asked me today for my take on new Maple Leaf Jeff Finger, and I asked him to do the same for Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft. I'll spare you from his first response about Raycroft (hint: it rhymes with "he trucks") and instead share his more detailed response:

I figured I'd start this post off by saying something positive about Andrew Raycroft. So here goes: he looks good in a baseball cap sitting at the end of the bench. A lot better than he looks in the crease during an actual game.

Before coming to Toronto, Raycroft had played two full seasons in Boston. He was great his first year, winning the Calder, and brutal the second. Leafs John Ferguson Jr. gambled that he could find his game again and dealt top prospect Tuuka Rask for him before the 06-07 season. Of course, being Ferguson, he was wrong.

In his first year in Toronto Raycroft was the undisputed starter and put up decent numbers, including setting a team record for wins in a season. His stats were misleading, though, as he never seemed comfortable in Toronto and was prone to giving up shaky goals that would deflate the team. He was particularly weak high to the glove side, and by the end of the year teams were beating him clean from faceoff circle regularly.

His career as a #1 goalie in Toronto essentially came to an end during the last game of the 06-07 season. With the Leafs playing Montreal and a playoff berth on the line, he was brutal. He gave uo three early goals, including one horrible one through his glove, and was pulled. After the game he seemed to shrug it off as no big deal. He pointed to his wins record as evidence of a solid season, but fans weren't buying it and they started to turn on him.

Last year was a complete writeoff. He lost the starter's job to Toskala early, he was awful when he did play, and by the end of the year he was glued to the bench even though Toskala had a shaky groin and probably shouldn't have been playing. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he may have been the worst goalie in the league last year.

There was really no way that Raycroft could have come back to Toronto in any meaningful role. Despite what you may hear, Leaf fans rarely turn on their own. But when they do, they're brutal, and Raycroft was the #1 target these days. He became a symbol of John Ferguson era, and seeing Rask playing well at the NHL level only made that worse.

In fairness, it's not his fault that Ferguson made a terrible trade, and he handled his backup status with class the whole year. He's definitely a guy who needs a change of scenery, and I'd love to see him succeed in Colorado. He's a cheap gamble, but I just can't see it paying off. He's just not good enough to be an NHL goaltender right now.
So, there you have it folks. I think we all understand the bottom line: one more year of baseball cap jokes!