What Pickard Means for the Maple Leafs

Well it didn’t take long, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have made a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights. More importantly, it’s a trade that will be very helpful for the rest of the season and beyond.

The Maple Leafs acquired goaltender Calvin Pickard in return for prospect Tobias Lindberg and the Leafs 2018 sixth round pick. Pickard was immediately sent down to the Toronto Marlies as he had already cleared waivers while with the Golden Knights.

Pickard will become the Marlies starter, which is actually a step down for him considering he played 50 games with the Colorado Avalanche last season. He has a career goals-against average of 2.88 and a save percentage of .914, which isn’t too shabby considering how historically bad the Avalanche were last season.

Calvin Pickard (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

That year definitely dragged down his averages. He was left exposed in the expansion draft and Vegas took him. Vegas claimed Malcolm Subban off of waivers from the Boston Bruins, leaving Pickard expendable.

The acquisition gives the Leafs a more reliable number three goalie as Garret Sparks experienced some injury trouble last season. Pickard will also provide valuable injury insurance should Frederik Andersen or Curtis McElhinney get hurt. He could also get the call-up should McElhinney falter.

The best thing about this acquisition is that, at only 25, Pickard could stick around long-term as Andersen’s backup down the road. As the Leafs don’t necessarily know what they have in Sparks or Kasmir Kaskisuo, Pickard could be the bridge until Joseph Woll is potentially ready.

Don’t fret that he was a part of the worst team in the NHL last season – he is a goalie on the rise. He has been part of Team Canada for the past two World Championships. He played two games for the Red & White in 2016 and was the starter in 2017. He played in seven games in 2017 and recorded a 1.49 GAA and a .938 SV% on the way to a Silver Medal.

So What Did the Leafs Give Up?

The answer: not much.

Lindberg was acquired by the Leafs in the Dion Phaneuf trade. He played six games for the Maple Leafs after being acquired and had two assists. He spent the rest of the time with the Marlies. He played 66 games over two seasons, scoring 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points. While he was a pretty good pickup at the time of the Phaneuf trade, he has been eclipsed by several other prospects on the wing. It was very unlikely that he would make the Leafs anytime soon and there are several players ahead of him to be safe.

Tobias Lindberg Maple Leafs
Former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tobias Lindberg. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Moving to Vegas should help Lindberg get more of a chance to play. The Marlies are absolutely loaded on the wing and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that he wouldn’t be a healthy scratch at times throughout the season. He should get more regular playing time with the Chicago Wolves.

Meanwhile, what this means for the Marlies’ goaltending is another thing. With the Pickard acquisition, the Marlies have four goaltenders on their roster: Pickard, Sparks, Kaskisuo and Cal Heeter. Head Coach Mike Babcock has said hinted that they may have to do something about that.

Now, the return for any of those other three goalies will be meager at best. Unless the Leafs plan on making the goalie a part of a bigger trade, expect a sixth or seventh round pick in return.

While the Leafs have gotten the most out of the trade for now, the Golden Knight’s Twitter had the last laugh with the sixth-rounder they acquired.