Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Sparks, Kallgren, Georgiev & Campbell

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll spend some time looking at the team’s goalie situation and what might happen when July 13 comes around. 

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The team has a lot of choices, but only a limited amount of salary-cap space might hamper the decisions it needs to make. What are some of the considerations the team might be engaging? What might we be able to guess about the thinking of the organization?

Item One: Making a Decision about a Goalie

The biggest current mystery in the entire Maple Leafs’ goalie situation is what might be going on behind the scenes. As always, I have no idea what general manager Kyle Dubas (and his team of advisors) is thinking, which way they are leaning, or what they might be trying to make happen. It certainly will be fun to see what reveals itself when July 13 comes around. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Is there any chance Jack Campbell will return to the Toronto Maple Leafs?
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Because the goalie is such a unique position, it’s probably the key decision the team will make for the coming season. This is the first time that this group has had a chance to put its own philosophy into practice. Frederik Andersen was already the starter when Dubas came into the role of general manager.

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We can make some guesses from what’s happened in the past, but those guesses might be tempered by time and experience. Four years ago early in his career as a general manager, before the 2018-19 season began, Dubas had to make a choice about his backup goalie. Should the Maple Leafs stick with the (then) 35-year-old career backup Curtis McElhinney, who just had the best season of his career; or, should they give one of their Toronto Marlies a chance at the NHL roster. Both Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard seemed ready at the time.

Related: Curtis McElhinney: The Journey To Becoming a Champion

At that time, whichever of the three goalies the team didn’t choose had to clear waivers before being sent down; and, the organization was likely to lose the ones it didn’t choose. At that time, the Maple Leafs chose Sparks to be their backup. In the end, he started well but didn’t work out. The other two goalies were, indeed, plucked off the waiver wire.

Sparks now toils in the minors in the Los Angeles Kings organization, last playing with the Ontario (California) Reign. His career path is eerily similar to Jack Campbell’s before he found his way back to goalie success. At that time, Dubas chose young and promising over experienced and reliable. Would he make the same choice?

What might we guess about that choice four seasons ago? And, what’s been learned since? 

Item Two: The Risk & Reward of Going After Alexandar Georgiev

None of us really have any idea what the Maple Leafs’ are thinking about which way to go with a goalie, but I never put it past Dubas and his team to make something unexpected happen. One of the most unexpected might be to go after New York Rangers’ back-up Alexandar Georgiev.

That choice is a long shot and it carries a ton of risk. However, it might also carry the most reward. Maple Leafs’ fans have to recall Georgiev goalie(ing) them with two spectacular 50+ save games when he was young and when the Rangers were not a playoff team. Games like those are impressive and would be tough to forget.

Alexandar Georgiev New York Rangers
Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers is a long shot for the Maple Leafs
(Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He’s an RFA coming off a $2.45 million contract and expecting more money in his next. It might be, with the Rangers already having Vezina Winner Igor ​​Shesterkin in their net and not wanting to face arbitration with Georgiev, that they would be willing to trade his rights to the Maple Leafs. 

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As far as Georgiev’s performance as an NHL goalie, he’s been brilliant but he’s also been average. He’s averaged around 30 games a season for the Rangers and has been a high-end backup. Most hockey pundits think he’s ready for more action, and would (if given a chance) mature into a high-end starter. He’s only 26 years old.

The problem is he’s not likely to be cheap. The Maple Leafs would have to trade for his negotiating rights and then sign him prior to those arbitration rights kicking in. They are not in a situation where they can be put in the position of being in the dark about where an arbitrator might land with a number. 

Erik Kallgren Toronto Maple Leafs
Could Erik Kallgren be the answer for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
(Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The second problem is that, if the Maple Leafs guess wrong, they’re stuck. And, unless a miracle happens with a younger goalie prospect (an Erik Kallgren or Joseph Woll) who jumps up to take over, the window of opportunity might be diminished. 

What to do?

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

There sure are rumors that, if Jack Campbell hits free agency, the New Jersey Devils have lined up to be one of his main suitors. Still, logic suggests that the Detroit Red Wings might be the closest thing to home for the Port Huron-native. 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kadri, Campbell, Mikheyev & Goodbye

As I noted in yesterday’s post, this is a time of the year that I really like. I’m left guessing. It’s fun to watch the Maple Leafs try to build a winning team.