The tandem of Reimer and Gustavsson has clearly failed the Maple Leafs this season and should prompt Brian Burke to seek other options this offseason
Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending.
The three words used most by Toronto Maple Leafs fans over the course of the last three months.
The Leafs' need of an upgrade in the blue paint is a secret to no one.
Between James Reimer's struggles since returning from a head injury suffered just a few weeks into the 2011-2012 regular season and Jonas Gustavsson's inability to play consistent hockey or stop routine shots, the Maple Leafs and their fans were left wanting.
With the 2012 offseason looming on the horizon, it is time to take a look at what goaltending options may be out there for Brian Burke and his staff.
Losing his starting spot in net this postseason may have been Luongo's ticket out of Vancouver
Let us kick it off with the obvious.
While there are three or four teams that have been rumored to have interest in the 33-year-old goalie, the bulk of the talk has been surrounding a potential deal with the Maple Leafs.
While he may come with an albatross of a contract, it would certainly solve the Leafs short term goaltending woes, and would also come at a relatively cheap cost on the trade market (thanks to said contract).
While some may not be ecstatic at the thought of a $5.33 million cap hit for a goalie who will be 43 when his contract expires, one must simply look at his track record, the other available options for the Leafs and the fact that goalies tend to play until a much older age than most players to see that acquiring Roberto Luongo would be a great move for Toronto.
Schneider is undoubtedly the top free agent goaltender on the market this offseason
As a young, top notch goalie, Cory Schneider has excelled both in the regular season and the limited playoff time he's had and has dealt with one of the tougher markets on goaltenders in the league.
Sounds like Toronto's ideal match.
While Brian Burke may not like concept of offer sheets, it is time for him to move into the 21st century.
Long, front loaded contracts are the way of the world. Offer sheets also serve a purpose. His refusal to sign those lengthy contracts means the Leafs lost out on Brad Richards and got to sign bona fide superstar Tim Connolly (way to stick to your principles Burke). If Burke sticks to his guns again and doesn't offer sheet Cory Schneider, he will once again be hurting this club.
Alas, I digress.
Bottom line is offer sheeting Cory Schneider to a potential $4 million per year contract would really force Mike Gillis' hand.
It's not realistic that he'd be able to ink Schneider to that kind of deal if he still has Luongo on his roster.
If he does, it forces him to move Luongo and gives other teams leverage.
Should Schneider sign, it would mean the Leafs give up their first- and third-round picks. But seeing as this year's entry draft will be wrapped up by the time free agency begins, those will be Toronto's 2013 picks.
On today's trade market, Schneider more than warrants a first- and third-round pick (see Semyon Varlamov to Colorado for a first).
Harding is considered by many to be the top unrestricted free agent on the free agent market
Should Brian Burke decide once more to bypass improving the Maple Leafs as much as possible and stand by his morals, there is still the option of signing Minnesota goalie Josh Harding.
While Harding has had injury problems in the past, he has shown some flashes of being a solid goaltender and posted a 2.62 goals against average in 34 games in 2011-2012.
While he may not be the best option available, he could be a goalie who can hold down the fort for a few seasons while goalies James Reimer and Ben Scrivens continue their development.
With Jonathan Quick rapidly establishing himself as the primary goaltender in Los Angeles, there is just no room for young stud Jonathan Bernier
The final two options are possible two of the most intriguing.
Here we have Jonathan Bernier, who happens to be one of the most highly rated young goaltenders out there.
Unfortunately for Bernier, Los Angeles has already found their goalie of the future in Jonathan Quick, who has not only proven he can handle the brunt of the work during the regular season, but can also endure the grind of the playoffs, as he is currently a front runner for the 2012 Conn Smythe Award.
After posting a goals against average of under 2.50 over his last two seasons (over a combined 41 games), Bernier has shown in his limited ice time that he has the potential to be a very good goaltender for a very long time.
With Dustin Penner becoming a free agent and speculation that there is a rift in the dressing room that could see Dustin Brown change teams, the Kings would surely love to replenish those losses, and moving Bernier to Toronto could bring them something they could use.
Lindback is another one of the NHL's top young netminders
Anders Lindback is in the same boat as Jonathan Bernier.
He is one of the most highly touted young goalies out there, but has nowhere to go and is stuck behind Pekka Rinne in Nashville who was just signed to a massive seven-year deal. Rinne (much like Quick) is showing that he can handle the stress of the postseason (though he has struggled against Phoenix up in the second round so far).
Much like Bernier, Lindback has impressed in his limited playing time, posting a goals against average of 2.42 and save percentage of .912 this season in 16 games with the Predators. And he posted a 2.60 goals against and .915 save percentage in 22 games last year.
Nashville is also a team that would love to pick up, say, a Nikolai Kulemin type player, along with a mid-round pick for a backup goalie that would only play 15-20 games a year for them.
Be sure to let me know what you think of these proposals, as well as what goaltenders you believe have the best shot of landing in Toronto next season in the comments section.
Also, be sure to follow me on twitter here: @LeafsWriterBR