Despite the trade for big winger in James van Riemsdyk, it has been a quiet off-season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Probably the biggest question going into the summer was what they were going to do between the pipes. They have yet to address it.
At the draft, Brian Burke told TSN that he would be comfortable heading into the season with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens as his goaltending tandem. Although Burke may actually believe this, it’s hard to imagine him entering the season with two inexperienced goaltenders again in what could be a make or break year for him as the president and general manager of the hockey club.
At this time last year there was nothing but optimism surrounding Reimer as he signed a new three-year deal following an excellent finish to the 2010-11 season. However, he was derailed by injury early in the season and he never got his game back on track.
One can understand why Burke would have faith in Reimer, as he did sign him to a three-year deal, but you have to believe that bringing in a veteran net minder to at least be a backup is an absolute must heading into this season.
With quality backup goalies like Scott Clemmensen and Josh Harding being resigned by their clubs, there weren’t many other options available in free agency that would be considered an upgrade over what the Maple Leafs currently have. Thus, the trade market appears to be the only way to go.
Last week on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown (Sportsnet Fan590), Burke told the host that he thinks he can upgrade in goal through the trade market this summer (he also mentioned that he thought he could do the same at the centre ice position).
Analyzing that statement, one would think that Burke was referring to Roberto Luongo, as he is obviously known to be available and Toronto has been linked as a potential landing spot. But most experts believe Luongo is set on playing in Florida and that the Panthers are also very interested in having him back in the Sunshine State.
If not Luongo, then who could Burke be targeting in the trade market that would be an upgrade over Reimer and Scrivens, or just Scrivens as a potential backup? I took a look at each team’s depth chart in goal and it was very hard to find a team, other than Vancouver, that would be looking to move out a goaltender.
There were rumors earlier this off-season that the Calgary Flames might be willing to trade Miikka Kiprusoff as part of a rebuild, but with the actions they have taken in free agency it seems highly unlikely that they will trade their star goalie.
Another name that has bounced around is Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild. Backstrom is entering the final year of his deal at $6 million and was believed to be available given that the Wild signed Josh Harding to a three-year extension. Yhey also have prospect Matt Hackett waiting in the wings. But again, with the moves the Wild have made this off-season signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, they just might be willing to hang on to Backstrom and lose him for nothing next summer.
One goalie that does come to mind is Tim Thomas. The Stanley Cup winning goalie has told the Boston Bruins that he is going to take a year off from hockey. Thomas has said that he wants to reconnect with his family, friends and faith. You have to wonder if this is the case or if this is a ploy to force the Bruins into trading him.
Burke has a history with Thomas as he was the general manager of Team USA for the 2010 Olympics, of which Thomas was a part of, and he has a history of making trades with Peter Chiarelli, Bruins’ GM. Thomas seems like a long shot, as no one really knows his true intentions, but he is definitely someone the Maple Leafs should be inquiring about.
A final scenario that could come about is the availability of Jose Theodore. If the Panthers do make a trade for Luongo, they will need to move Theodore; whether he is part of the package that would go to Vancouver remains to be seen. Surely that would make sense, but if for any reason that does not occur, Theodore would be exactly the type of goalie the Maple Leafs need at this time.
He was excellent for the Panthers last season, posting a 2.46 goals against average and a .916 save percentage in 53 games. He is also in the last year of a deal that pays him $1.5 million. Theodore would be a perfect complement to Reimer as he would be a good veteran presence plus he has the capability to start 50+ games if Reimer drops the ball.