SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter cues backup plan

Dumping a couple of younger players allowed Flames GM Darryl Sutter to add to his veteran presence....

Dumping a couple of younger players allowed Flames GM Darryl Sutter to add to his veteran presence. (QMI Agency/Darren Makowichuk)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter took time out of a busy morning to creep downstairs and say a quick goodbye to Curtis McElhinney after dealing the goaltender away on trade deadline day.

It wasn't the only reason McElhinney isn't holding any grudges after being shipped to the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday in exchange for 32-year-old Finnish backstop Vesa Toskala.

Truth is, he knew he had his shot to prove he could thrive in the difficult role of backup to Miikka Kiprusoff.

"The opportunities were there to play. Sometimes, they were spread out more than I would have liked, but I can't say I didn't get opportunities. That's for sure," McElhinney said on a day he joined forward Dustin Boyd and defenceman Aaron Johnson on outbound planes, with Toskala, a fourth-round pick from the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers defenceman Steve Staios heading to Calgary. A minor-league swap also saw winger Riley Armstrong sent to the Detroit Red Wings for defenceman Andy Delmore. "Hopefully, this will be good for me."

Winning three of his seven starts this season while posting an .885 save percentage and 3.23 goals-against average wasn't enough. So the revolving door behind Kiprusoff, who has had six different full-time backups since joining the Flames in 2003-04 now flips to Toskala.

"Whoever it is has got to perform," Sutter said of the position. "When you look at the big picture of it, the No. 1 guys in the league all play 60 to 70 games, and those other guys better not just be going in to give them guys a night off."

Boyd slipped up and down the Flames lineup over parts of four seasons with the team since being selected in the third round of the 2004 draft.

Unfortunately for him, he slid all the way to the fifth line along with Craig Conroy, Brian McGrattan and Nigel Dawes by deadline day.

That led to Sutter jumping on a fourth-round selection from the Predators in return for the 23-year-old, who fits right in with the speedy team in Smashville.

"We wanted to make sure we gave him a shot in the top nine," Sutter said of Boyd's opportunity. "He just got pushed out. Very simple."

Sutter's answers were similar for both McElhinney and Boyd's progress with his team.

"We're not breaking up a dynasty here," Sutter said. "It's the very same answer. We wanted to give those kids an opportunity to show that they could help us win. Consistently, (they) didn't do that."

Dumping a couple of younger players allowed Sutter to add to his veteran presence with Toskala and the 36-year-old Staios.

His $2.7-million cap hit that extends another season is well worth it according to the Flames GM, who sees his presence as leadership.

"There's not very many of that type of quality veteran leadership type of defencemen in the market," Sutter said. "If there were, we felt they weren't as good as Steve, or making a lot more money."


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