The Toronto Maple Leafs are having goaltending issues and it’s recently gone from bad to worse and needs to be fixed. With the surprising news of Jack Campbell being out for multiple weeks with a rib injury and the inconsistent play of Petr Mrazek, make no mistake about it, general manager Kyle Dubas has been working the phones to get a sense of the goalie market before the March 21 trade deadline. Let’s take a look at some options for their crease as the Maple Leafs need to get serious and make some offers before it’s too late.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have already been approached by multiple teams regarding the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and by the sounds of it, Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t interested in moving before the deadline. The 37-year-old has no-trade protection against 10 teams of his choice, however, it’s basically a full no-movement clause as the Blackhawks won’t be trading the veteran netminder unless he tells them it’s ok. That’s the type of respect organizations give you when you’re a first-class person above all else.
Fleury hasn’t been elite this season, but he’s still a Stanley Cup champion who would give the Maple Leafs a huge boost in their crease. Recently, there’s been some trade chatter involving the Maple Leafs and Fleury and because of his $7 million cap hit, Toronto will need to facilitate a three-team deal so they can lower it to $1.75 million. Pierre LeBrun of TSN recently commented on the possibility:
Dubas would need to give up multiple prospects to finalize this deal and likely include Petr Mrazek going back the other way. So, acquisition cost could be an issue here as the Blackhawks and whoever else is involved to eat salary will want to be compensated accordingly.
Related: Maple Leafs: 3 Trade Destinations for Alexander Kerfoot
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and several others of the Maple Leafs’ core are in the prime of their careers, so they should be going all-in every season to try and win the Stanley Cup. They can’t continue to waste away historic seasons and not give them the best shot to win big. Adding Fleury for this year’s Cup run would be a wise move for the Maple Leafs.
Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
While he’s not necessarily the second-best option, Joonas Korpisalo of the Columbus Blue Jackets is a pending free agent who wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to acquire. He’s been linked to the Edmonton Oilers and apparently, they balked at the price tag several weeks ago, but that’s likely gone down from two draft picks to one along with a mid-range prospect.
This season, the 27-year-old is making $2.8 million against the salary cap and since Columbus already has Elvis Merzlikins signed long term, a deal is likely coming for Korpisalo and Toronto should inquire about the cost. So far in 19 games, he’s posted a 3.95 goals-against average (GAA), but if you look back to his playoff run from 2019-20, the netminder was lights out posting a 1.90 GAA and a .941 save percentage (SV%). It wouldn’t hurt to add some more depth before the playoffs, but with the Maple Leafs struggling as bad as they are to keep the puck out of the net, perhaps it’s the Fleury types that need to be inquired about more seriously. As a result, Korpisalo may not be the answer this time around.
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
While it would take a huge package to convince the Anaheim Ducks to move him, John Gibson is the type of goaltender Dubas and company should be going after. They have the prospects to entice other teams and they have a need to get creative and land an elite netminder. Gibson fits that bill as the 28-year-old is one of the best in the business.
While his numbers aren’t anything to write home about this season, Gibson’s track records speak for itself and if there were Olympics involving NHL players this year, he would have likely been starting for the American squad. He holds no-trade protection against 10 teams, so to this point it’s unknown if Toronto would make the cut. With Campbell a pending free agent and Mrazek being as shaky as he’s been, the Maple Leafs should load up a huge offer and make the Ducks ponder pulling the trigger. While Anaheim is only four points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild card spot, the Stars have three games in hand. Look for the Ducks to start moving out some pieces before the deadline and the Leafs need to be pestering them about acquiring their starting netminder.
Jordan Binnington, St Louis Blues
It’s not often you get a chance to add a Stanley Cup champion netminder who is 28-years-old and signed to a long-term deal, but with the emergence of Ville Husso in St Louis, there’s some potential the Blues would consider moving Jordan Binnington if they’re blown away by an offer. Binnington is a native of Richmond Hill, Ontario and his no-trade protection would likely be waived to ‘come home’ to the Maple Leafs.
The Blues are certainly not shopping Binnington at this point, but if Dubas was to approach the Blues with an offer they couldn’t refuse, perhaps the two sides could advance the conversation. The deal would likely involve Mrazek, Alexander Kerfoot and at least two top elite prospects, which is a steep cost but one the Maple Leafs need to consider as they aren’t going to get out of the first round if they can’t find someone to make a save.
In the past five games the Maple Leafs have given up 24 goals and the performance coming out of their crease has hit rock bottom. Campbell is hurt and Mrazek is struggling, so it’s time to get serious about acquiring some help in net before the trade deadline. Fleury, Gibson or Binnington should be at the top of the list and it’s time Dubas and company get off their wallets and cash in on some prospects to get the help they so desperately need.