Trade Analysis: Tokarski Dealt to Habs

Longtime Tampa Bay Lightning prospect goaltender Dustin Tokarski was traded this morning to the Montreal Canadiens for former Lightning goaltender Cedrick Desjardins.

Desjardins, 27, has appeared in 22 games this season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League, compiling a record of 7-13-2 with a 2.94 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. The Edmundston, New Brunswick, native has played in two career NHL games, both with the Lightning during the 2010-11 season, picking up a pair of victories while recording a 1.00 goals-against average and .968 save percentage.

How the trade helps the Lightning:

While nothing has been reported at this time, it is likely this was trade idea initiated by Syracuse General Manager Julien BriseBois to help the Crunch. Coming into last night’s game 6-0 win against Albany, Syracuse had lost eight of its past 10 games. Despite Tokarski’s impressive resume, which includes championships at the Canadian Midget, WHL, World Juniors, and AHL levels, he and fellow Syracuse netminder were struggling with consistency and a shake-up was likely in the cards for the club.

Desjardins brings a veteran presence to the locker room and ice and is a more secure No. 3 goaltender in the organization. Teams are built from the net out and perhaps the Lightning organization has more faith in Desjardins as a No. 3/AHL No.1 than Tokarski, 23, as the foundation for the team. Desjardins played for Boucher in Hamilton and Tampa and the two know each other well.

Bottom line: Desjardins brings more consistency and security to the Lightning and Crunch.

How the trade hurts the Lightning:

Tokarski backstopped the current group of players to the Calder Cup last season and he was and is a valued teammate. The trade could have a negative impact in the Syracuse locker room, which could translate to the ice.

Desjardins is two seasons removed from shoulder surgery and is approaching 30 years of age. If he goes down, the Crunch will depend on Riku Helenius in net, who has been wildly inconsistent this season.

Future impact:

Tokarski lost his title as the Lightning’s “Goaltender of the Future” to last year’s first round pick, Andrey Vasilevsky, who is as good a prospect the organization has had since Steven Stamkos was drafted.

Anders Lindback has had an impressive start to his Lightning career, and at age 25 projects to be the Lightning’s No. 1 goaltender for the foreseeable future. There will be an open spot in Tampa next fall after Mathieu Garon ‘s contract runs out. Speculation was that Tokarski would fill that spot after a battle with Helenius and Jaroslav Janus. That is now up in the air as another third option may end up in the race.

The Lightning remain strong in future goaltenders with Helenius, Janus, Vasilevskiy, and NCAA freshman phenom Adam Wilcox of the Minnesota Golden Gophers developing in the wings.

Opinion:

It’s not a shock that Tokarski was traded, and it’s not a shock that the club wanted Desjardins back. Management loved him when he was with the club a few years back, but wasn’t willing to sign him early in the summer after he underwent shoulder surgery. Colorado was and they scooped him up.

A year later (July 2012), Desjardins was an unrestricted free agent, but the Lightning had Helenius coming over from Europe and Tokarski was coming off a Calder Cup championship. Desjardins was also on waivers in January, though Tampa Bay would have had to keep him on their NHL roster if they claimed him.

The shock comes from the fact they were dealt for each other. Tokarski seemed to have more value than Desjardins – a good, but career minor league goaltender who was on waivers a month ago. That’s not to say Desjardins can’t excel in this new role.

While Tokarski originally projected as a Chris Osgood type “solid starter,” his ceiling fell a little this year, especially lately. He still projects as at least a dependable backup, which he will likely fulfill behind Carey Price in Montreal.

Ultimately, the Lightning will not be greatly affected by losing Tokarski, though the return could have been greater.