Do the Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Trade For Another Goaltender?
If you go back a couple of weeks ago, the biggest problem the Leafs probably had were William Nylander not scoring and the team falling behind to Detroit. Then, Frederik Andersen was listed as day-to-day with a groin injury on December 28th, which has since turned to him being placed on the IR. Garret Sparks was looking to start his third game in a row this past Thursday against Minnesota before a Nylander shot rang off his mask in practice. Enter Michael Hutchinson, who was acquired by by the Leafs via trade with the Florida Panthers last Saturday. With Sparks out indefinitely with a concussion, and Andersen still out day-to-day, the question is, does Kyle Dubas need to make another move for a goaltender?
Who They Have Now
After Sparks’ injury was announced, Hutchinson was given the call to start against the Wild. Hutchinson was not impressive in his first start with the Leafs, but certainly did not play poorly Thursday afternoon. Also to be taken into consideration is that his start against Minnesota was only his fifth game this season in the NHL, and his first action since October 23rd. Hutchinson has spent the majority of this season with Florida’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, where he was 2-3-2, with a 3.33 GAA and a .906 SV%. He will get the start again Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks, with Kasimir Kaskisuo backing up his third game in a row for the Leafs. Kaskisuo has yet to see the ice in the NHL, and has not put up great numbers in the AHL with the Marlies this season. In 12 games this year, he is 3-5-1, with a 4.12 GAA and .866 SV%.
Why NOT to Trade
In order to get Hutchinson from Florida, Toronto had to give up a fifth-round pick for a minor league goaltender. Now yes, Hutchinson has plenty of NHL experience in his tenure with the Winnipeg Jets. However, that is a lot to give up for a goaltender that has been anything but successful this season in the AHL. Given that the Leafs just missed out on an opportunity to pick up Mike McKenna off waivers, it would be a tough pill to swallow if the Leafs have to give up another pick or asset for a goaltender that will probably end up back in the American League. With two goaltenders injured, GMs around the league see that the Leafs are desperate for a netminder, which is noticeable in how Florida’s Dale Tallon was able to bump up the price on Hutchinson.
If the Leafs do trade for another goalie, they would have to consider the future in terms of having a surplus in net. Andersen skated in his first full practice since December, and said he is “getting close” following the skate on Friday. If Sparks’ injury is long-term, the Leafs will still have Hutchinson as a backup, and Kaskisuo will rejoin Eamon McAdam and the Marlies. Thinking in the future as well, adding a goaltender with a multi-year contract could put the Leafs in an even tighter cap crunch. Kaskisuo still has one more season left on his deal. Whereas Hutchinson only signed a one-year contract when signed on with the Panthers this past off-season. If Sparks does return, and returns to form, the Leafs would have to give him a raise, as he is a restricted free agent this coming summer.
Who to Trade For
If Kyle Dubas does feel that it is necessary to go after another goaltender, it is going to be difficult to find a quality goalie at a reasonable price. It would be unwise to find a netminder and have to give up a player and/or a pick, just to hold the spot until Sparks comes back. If Sparks is out long-term and Hutchinson cannot put up quality starts on Andersen’s nights off, then the Leafs may have a problem, and will have to look outside the organization.
“Hamburglar” is an AHL goaltender who could fill the void. He is on a one-year deal. Hammond’s brightest moment in the league came when he dragged Ottawa into the 2015 playoffs. He had a huge drop-off the following season, and has only started five games since the start of the 2016-2017. However, this season with Minnesota’s AHL club in Iowa, Hammond has been fairly decent. He’s 9-4-1, with a 2.77 GAA and a solid .913 SV%. In his one game last year with Colorado, Hammond played well in a loss to Philadelphia, stopping 33 of 35 against the Flyers.
The former Erie Otter knows all too well about team injury trouble since coming over from the Columbus organization. Dansk is having a good season with Vegas’ affiliate in Chicago. Despite having an iffy .898 SV% and 2.89 GAA, Dansk has won 12 games in the 20 he has played this season with the Wolves, which is tied for sixth-best. Last season, after Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban went down, Dansk filled the gap admirably. He went 3-0 before getting injured himself in his fourth game. He had a 1.78 GAA and .946 SV% in four games, and could be a great fit with the Marlies, while on the same token could be a capable backup for the big club.
If you want to look at goaltenders that have substantial NHL experience, then Dubas should make a call to Don Waddell in Carolina. Calm down Leafs Nation. I’m not talking about Curtis McElhinney. I am talking about acquiring Petr Mrazek. Currently on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, Mrazek is someone who can play in the NHL, and will not cost the Leafs a ton to get him, as he has not been overly impressive this season. Mrazek is 7-8-2 with a 2.61 GAA and a .902 SV%. Mrazek, granted, is not the same goaltender he was when he stole the starting job from Jimmy Howard in Detroit back in 2014-2015, however he could play a key role in limited time if need be.
This last option is a duo from Montreal because both goaltenders could be used as last resort, and both would fit in the backup role that was left by Sparks. Niemi has long since passed his prime, but he has the potential to steal a game now and again. His record with the Habs this year is 6-4-1, with a high 4.01 GAA and an .881 SV%. Numbers that do not impress the eye, however if used sparingly, he could be worth a look from the Leafs.
Lindgren, in his time spent with the Canadiens last season, looked like he could be an average goaltender in the NHL. With Carey Price injured for most last season, and Antti Niemi not up to the task of being a starter. Lindgren received a solid number of games late last season. He only scored four wins in 14 games. However, he was able to post a respectable .908 SV%. This year with a struggling Laval club, he is 7-9-3, with a decent 2.56 GAA and .891 SV%. It would be interesting to see how the Leafs would try to make a trade with Montreal, and it would also be interesting to see the Leafs have two right-handed catching netminders.