NHL Offseason 2012: Could Niklas Backstrom Be on the Toronto Maple Leafs' Radar?
An offseason full of speculation and rumors appears to be continuing, as the Toronto Maple Leafs re-work their team in hopes of making the playoffs.
Other than a few restricted free agent signings, a surprising trade that involved Luke Schenn, James Van Riemsdyk and the club signing checking center, Jay McClement, the offseason has been rather uneventful so far—more hype than substance.
The Leafs continue to explore their goaltending options via free agency and trade. The free agent market is now relatively bare, only with options like Cristobal Huet available. As a result, the most likely avenue to get a goalie appears to be through trade.
Roberto Luongo has always been on the Leafs' radar and will probably continue to be on the radar until Vancouver's asking price becomes too much for the Leafs to handle.
A respectable trade to land Luongo would likely involve Tim Connolly, a defensive prospect or Cody Franson, and back-up goalie Ben Scrivens—as Connolly is expiring—and a good second line center option for the Canucks.
Scrivens gives the Canucks a viable back-up option to Cory Schneider. In addition, the prospect would likely be a defensive prospect, such as Jesse Blacker, or a re-signed Franson.
Tim Thomas also remains an option, but comes with much more risk as there are questions as to whether he'll even play this year. A package that includes Matthew Lombardi and a conditional second round pick should be enough to get Thomas.
The condition, of course, will be games played. Once he plays the necessary games in a season, the Leafs give up the pick.
That's all well and good, but in my opinion, the goalie that the Leafs should really go after is Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild.
Backstrom, who is an expiring goaltender, is owed over $6 million this season. The Wild may not be in a position to re-sign the goalie, after nabbing stud free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.
Along with the recent resigning of back-up goalie Josh Harding to a new three-year deal, Backstrom's days could be numbered in Minneapolis.
Backstrom's career numbers are very solid, and at the age of 34, he probably has five to seven good years still left in him—if the Leafs choose to sign him in the offseason.
With a 2.42 GAA and a .918 career save percentage, his goaltending numbers immediately become the best the Leafs have had in net since the days of Ed Belfour.
Backstrom battled through injuries last season and only started 46 games going 19-18-7. Not the most impressive numbers, but remember that the Wild have been notoriously weak goal scorers and often ranked as one of the worst goals-per-game teams in the NHL.
Backstrom is entering the last season on a four-year contract he signed with the Wild worth $24 million in July of 2009.
What kind of package is enough to get Backstrom? Should the Leafs even be interested if he's made available? Will he be enough to get the team back to the playoffs?
Offer your opinion below, so feel free to comment.
Thanks for reading.
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