The Toronto Maple Leafs should add a veteran goaltender to their roster for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs, but making a move for Calgary Flames veteran Miikka Kiprusoff before the April 3 trade deadline would be a big mistake by general manager Dave Nonis.
TSN's Darren Dreger recently reported on the speculation that the Leafs could be interested in the Flames goaltender.
Lots of twitter noise about Leafs interest in Kiprusoff as reported on TSN. Of course Leafs will inquire IF he's available. Due diligence.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 26, 2013
Trading for a 36-year-old goaltender with lots of playoff experience is the type of move that a Stanley Cup contender makes when it has unproven or inconsistent goaltending. The Leafs will not compete for a championship this season and they need a lot more than a goaltending upgrade to become a Cup contender.
Even with Kiprusoff starting in net for the Leafs during the playoffs, Toronto still wouldn't be a lock to reach the second round, especially if it's the seventh or eighth seed and has to play the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins in Round 1.
When you consider what the likely asking price for Kiprusoff would be, it's easy to see why this move makes no sense for the Leafs. In addition to a young goalie like Ben Scrivens, or even current No. 1 James Reimer, the Leafs would probably have to part with their first-round pick in the 2013 NHL draft.
Reimer has played well this season and was quite impressive in Toronto's successful home-and-home series with the Boston Bruins over the last three days. Since he lost to the Carolina Hurricanes on February 4, Reimer has been defeated in regulation just one time with an 8-1-4 record in that span.
When Reimer is healthy, he is a legitimate No. 1 goaltender and will continue to improve since he's only 25 years old. Until the Leafs see how Reimer performs in the playoffs (which will likely be this season), it's too early to give up on him.
The last thing that Toronto needs is to trade away another talented young goalie only to see him thrive on another team (like Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, for example).
Reimer's stats actually compare quite well to Kiprusoff's this season.
|Player||W/L/OT||SV%||ES SV%||PP SV%||GAA|
In his last seven games, Kiprusoff is 3-4 and has given up an average of 3.85 goals per game. The Flames star is no longer the top 10 goalie he was just a few years ago.
Even though Kiprusoff has been very durable throughout his career, his recent injury that forced him to miss several weeks is a concern as he reaches his late-30s. Kiprusoff has played in an average of 73.4 games over the last seven seasons, and very few goaltenders are able to start that many games during the final years of their career.
Acquiring the Flames goaltender and trusting him to be healthy for 55 or more games plus the playoffs is a risk not worth taking for Toronto. Kiprusoff also has a $5.83 million salary cap hit for this season and next year.
After former general manager Brian Burke carefully managed the team's roster to give the Leafs plenty of cap space this summer, it would be foolish for Nonis to hurt his cap flexibility by acquiring an aging veteran such as Kiprusoff who could be an injury concern going forward.
As for their first-round pick in the upcoming draft, the Leafs must keep this selection because the 2013 class is loaded with impressive talent at every position, and even if Toronto ends its seven-year playoff drought and doesn't pick in the lottery, there will be plenty of players in the middle of the first round with star potential.
Since the 2006 NHL draft when the Leafs took Jiri Tlusty with the No. 13 pick, only one player who the team has selected in the first round is currently on the team's roster, and that's Nazem Kadri (No. 7 in 2009).
The Leafs have traded too many first-round picks since the 2004-05 lockout and it has prevented the team from going through a proper rebuild and supplying its NHL roster with the right amount of top young talent.
However, Toronto's depth and talent at all levels (NCAA, CHL, AHL) have improved over the last two years, and Nonis needs to use his first-round pick in this draft to continue stockpiling the cupboard with top-tier prospects who will become important players on the NHL roster or valuable trade chips at future trade deadlines.
If Reimer fails in the playoffs and the Leafs want to make a goaltending upgrade in the summer, pursuing upcoming UFA Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild would be their best option. Backstrom could be a Vezina Trophy finalist this season, and signing him as a free agent would allow the Leafs to keep their prospects and draft picks.
Does a Kiprusoff trade make sense for the Leafs?
If Backstrom doesn't want to join the Leafs as a free agent, Nonis could consider signing a UFA such as Anton Khudobin or Ray Emery.
Giving up the valuable assets (top prospects, first round picks) that will help the Leafs build a bright future of consistent winning would set this franchise back many years, and trading them for a quick fix to contend now is not how Stanley Cup teams are built.
If Nonis is able to work out a deal for a veteran backup, he should pull the trigger, but making a bold trade for a goalie like Kiprusoff would not significantly upgrade his team for the present or the future.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs. All salary information courtesy of Capgeek.