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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf