The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time in the post-lockout era and can’t catch a break.
They need to shore up their goalie issues, but the current market for netminders is abysmal.
The only realistic options are all either past their prime, a rental or a career backup. Just check the list formulated by Peter Martin of ibtimes.com:
Evgeni Nabokov, Dwayne Roloson, Josh Harding, Curtis Sanford, J.S. Giguere, Anti Niittymaki and Scott Clemmenson.
All of them come with ups and downs, but none of the above has the potential to carry a team in the playoffs. GM Brian Burke recently conducted an extremely honest interview and made it clear the team is not satisfied just making the playoffs (via ibtimes.com):
I'm not paid to get in the playoffs. I want to win a championship here. Getting into the playoffs...we could have done that last year. We could have traded our young players and gotten in last year for a couple of 30-year-olds. We could have gotten in the year before, too, I believe, if we traded all the kids.
I'm not interested in making the playoffs and getting our asses kicked in the first round...I've done that. It's not much fun.
It’s a tough place to be right now. They are 28th in the league in goals against (3.0), as Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer have consistently struggled. If they want to trade for a second-rate goalie, the team will have to sacrifice young talent, draft picks or a proven veteran.
The team is in a free fall, dropping four straight to plummet to 10th place in the Eastern Conference, three points away from eighth-place Winnipeg. There is no doubt they would get smoked in the first round of the playoffs by either Boston or New York.
With the abundance of goalies set to be free agents in the offseason, the organization must realize that no move is the right move. The team is going in the right direction and surrendering a young talent just to make a half-baked playoff run in 2012 is foolish.
It’s not what the fans want to hear, but it is the cold reality of the Maple Leafs' current situation. So when the 3:00 p.m. trade deadline hits on Monday, don't be surprised to see the exact same Toronto team as the one you currently see.