The Toronto Maple Leafs have come to terms on a one-year contract with restricted free agent goaltender Calvin Pickard worth $800,000, the team announced Wednesday. Pickard joined the Maple Leafs via trade after he was the first expansion pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in June 2017.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) June 20, 2018
Pickard was poised to be the backup in Vegas and was looking like the future of the position for the team with an aging Fleury holding the reigns in the interim. When the Golden Knights claimed Malcolm Subban off of waivers from the Boston Bruins, however, Pickard has placed on waivers himself just two days later. Going unclaimed, Pickard was traded just hours later to the Maple Leafs in a deal that saw Tobias Lindberg and a sixth-round draft pick in 2018 shipped to Vegas.
Pickard was immediately assigned to Toronto’s affiliate in the AHL, the Toronto Marlies, and had a very good season in tandem with Garret Sparks, compiling a 21-9-1 record with a 2.31 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. Pickard would also get one game with the Maple Leafs on their main roster though he would allow four goals and posted a .857 save percentage in the game.
With Sparks, Pickard would win the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award, a trophy awarded to the goaltenders of the AHL team who had the lowest goals-against average and who had appeared in a minimum of 25 games during the regular season.
Pickard Still has NHL Potential
While Pickard may have had a bad run in the NHL in 2016-17 with the Colorado Avalanche, posting an abysmal 2.98 goals against average and a .904 save percentage in what became one of the worst NHL seasons in history by a team, Pickard’s underlying numbers in previous opportunities between the pipes lend to the notion that there’s still hope for him to be a starting goalie in the NHL one day.
In his first two seasons with the Avalanche in a backup capacity, Pickard would post .932 and .922 save percentages in 16 games and 20 games respectively in 2014-15 and 2015-16. While his poor season in 2016-17 may be fresh on everybody’s mind, it’s important to remember that the dysfunction of the team was likely more the story there than Pickard’s inability to play the position.
Pickard’s role with the club moving forward is unclear as he could spend more time in the AHL in 2018-19. He could also be named the Maple Leafs’ backup goalie behind Frederik Andersen if he beats out Curtis McElhinney and Sparks for the job. The Maple Leafs will have some decisions to make as all three backup contenders are set to make NHL money next season regardless of where they play.
Should Pickard not get the first crack at a spot in the NHL in 2018-19, an injury or two could immediately put him in the running for some NHL time next season regardless of where he starts the year. At 26 years old, the future should still be bright for Pickard despite a few bumps in the road slowing him down to this point.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.