SUN Hockey Pool

Flames trade McElhinney

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:23 PM ET

Miikka Kiprusoff will have a familiar face backing him up in the last 20 games of the season.

The Calgary Flames have sent backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney to the Anaheim Ducks for 32-year-old Vesa Toskala ó the former Sharks tender and fellow Finn who was sent to Orange County by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a pre-Olympic deal that brought J-S Giguere to Toronto on the same day the Flames shipped defenceman Dion Phaneuf to the Leafs.

"You never expect to be traded at any point of your career, regardless of how things are going, but I hope it works out best for Calgary," McElhinney said Wednesday at the Dome after hearing the news.

"Theyíre getting a veteran presence back there, somebody thatís played a lot of games as a starter and a backup at certain points of his career. This is going to be good for them going down the stretch and for me a new opportunity."

Goaltending was one of the Flames' biggest question marks with the inconsistent McElhinney appearing in only 10 games for the Flames this season and posting a 3-4-0 record with an .885 save percentage and 3.23 goals-against average.

With 20 games remaining including Wednesday night's tilt against the Minnesota Wild at the Saddledome, the Flames are locked in a bitter battle for one of the final playoff spots.

Kiprusoff earned a bronze medal with Finland at the Olympics and will be leaned on heavily over the final month and a half of the regular season. But to avoid burning him out, they needed an experienced backup to help carry the load with 20 games coming in just 39 nights.

Toskala didn't even get to suit up for a game with the Ducks after being dealt Jan. 31. He posted a 7-12-3 record with the Leafs, but previously had three consecutive seasons with more than 20 wins with the Leafs and Sharks.

With another year on his contract and a $535,000 cap hit, McElhinney had been given Flames GM Darryl Sutter's vote of confidence coming into this season. It was backed up by head coach Brent Sutter's suggestion he'd play McElhinney more than the last bench boss in Calgary.

Things didn't pan out that way.

Still, McElhinney wasn't sure he'd be traded even if a veteran presence was brought aboard.

"Youíre shocked," McElhinney said. "Kinda excited, but disappointed to be leaving some good teammates, friends and an organization Iíve been a part of since 2002. Bottom line is Iím looking forward to this. Itíll be a good experience.

The 26-year-old has made gradual strides, but owns a 4-12-0-1 record over three seasons in the NHL and hasn't been given many opportunities to start.

"I think new scenery will help out. Iím going to a pretty good team as well. Still in the thick of things. It should be fun," said McElhinney, whose last start coincidentally came against the Ducks in Anaheim Jan. 17 ó a 5-4 loss.

He's not holding any grudges against the Flames.

"The opportunities were there to play. Sometimes they were spread out more than I would have liked, but I canít say I didnít get opportunities. Thatís for sure," he said.

"Hopefully this will be good for me."


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