Maple Leafs Free Agency: 3 Goaltenders Toronto Must Target ASAP
When trying to figure out why the playoffs are so elusive to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the answer is immediate. It cannot be the brilliant one-two punch of Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel or the truck of a defenseman they have in Dion Phaneuf—it is their horrid goaltending situation.
Between the flimsy James Reimer, the inexperienced Ben Scrivens and the monstrosity Jonas "Monster" Gustavsson, the Leafs spent last season letting up soft goals.
Reimer started out strong—winning four of his first five games.
Unfortunately, in his sixth game, he was run into by Montreal Canadian Stephen Gionta. Reimer suffered a neck injury that sidelined him for over a month.
The Leafs' starter never returned back to form after that hit. Reimer was inconsistent and neither of the other two goalies were able to provide any relief.
With no competent goaltenders in Toronto, the Maple Leafs were forced to watch soft goals against Reimer negate any Lupul-Kessel magic.
The Leafs can choose to gamble the 2013 season away on Reimer or they can pick up a reliable goaltender and seize a playoff spot.
Here are three goalies the Leafs should consider adding to their team.
Los Angeles backup goalie Jonathan Bernier has made it clear that he wants off the Kings.
Bernier is seeking a starting position and knows he will not get it with Los Angeles. The Kings committed to their starter Jonathan Quick after a historic playoff performance that ultimately won them the Stanley Cup.
Bernier has yet to really prove himself in the NHL—playing only 48 games over his four-season career.
The 24-year-old has shown that he can at least contend in the NHL at a young age. Under the right team, Bernier could end up paying dividends for seasons to come.
There have been reports that the Leafs have expressed interest in Bernier (via the torontosun). However, Leafs' General Manager Brian Burke does not want to commit to a young, inexperienced goaltender.
"We're not looking at that avenue," Burke told Torontosun. "A couple goalies that moved are young, unproven guys. That's an avenue we're not interested in. We've kicked the tires, looked at all the prices, but that's not an avenue we're looking at."
It is understandable that Burke does not want to invest in a young goaltender who has yet to prove himself.
That being said, there is more of a risk in going all-in with Reimer without a reliable backup.
"I think we all know what’s going on, we’ve all seen what’s developed. At the end of the day, I think it’s time to move on, and I’m OK with that," said Vancover Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (via NBC sports).
As Vancover backup goalie Cory Schneider continues to shine, it is no longer feasible for the Canucks to hold on to Luongo's giant contract. Both Luongo and Canucks general manager Mike Gillis have decided that it is time to see Luongo off.
So why not the Maple Leafs?
Not too long ago, Luongo was considered the best goalie in the game. Luongo's performance led the Canadian hockey team to the gold medal during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
It would be nice for Toronto to beat the 'Nucks with their former star goaltender. Not to mention, a solid goalie like Luongo would make the Leafs a serious Cup contender.
However, it is not certain whether or not Luongo would be willing to waive the no-trade clause in his contract.
Also, it would cost Toronto a player or two for a goaltender of Luongo's stature.
If Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke really wants to patch the hole in his goaltending, Luongo would be a strong effort in doing that.
St. Louis Blues goaltenders Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak were a dream duo. Although the Blues chose Halak as the starter, many wondered why Elliot was not given the initial nod.
Elliot, who was the lowest ranked goalie the season before, made it to the 2012 All-Star team. He finished the 2012 season with nine shutouts and 23 wins in only 38 games.
As if that were not enough, Elliot also had the highest save percentage (.940) and the lowest goals allowed average (1.56) in the league.
The Blues would be smart to dangle their backup in a trade offer and the Maple Leafs would be smarter to make a play for him.
Elliot is one of the most composed goaltenders in the game. Even as he stretches across the crease, he never dips his body or exposes the high corners.
Similar to the trade for Luongo, the Leafs would have to say goodbye to a proven player or prospect of theirs to execute such a trade.
Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke should really consider Elliot. The price and commitment is a lot lower for a goalie of nearly the same caliber as Luongo.
Does Burke realize that he has a team to be reckoned with? The Maple Leafs would be very hard to beat with some consistency between the pipes.
Until he tends to his team's weaknesses, Burke can expect to miss the playoffs yet again.