In"creasing" Questions Surround Maple Leafs' Goalie Situation

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IJune 9, 2009

TORONTO - APRIL 8: Goalie Curtis Joseph #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stops the puck against the Buffalo Sabres during their NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on April 8, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

There is little question that the 2009-2010 Toronto Maple Leafs will look different than the group that was on ice this past year.  How much different?  Well, that depends on who you ask.

Some feel it's a big year for the Leafs, who have the cap space to (wisely) be a major player in the free agent market.  

Some feel they should just sit on what they have, and allow the young guys to continue their development, which showed promise this past season.

And while we don't know who will be the Leafs' top draft pick, or their first signing on July 1, we do know something about the goaltending situation.

Although, in this case, it's not who will be between the pipes.  In this instance, we know who won't be.

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that fan favourite Curtis Joseph would not have his contract renewed by the club this summer, and will become an unrestricted free agent. This concludes Cujo's second tour of duty with the organization.  He was first with the team from 1998-2002.

Burke credited the veteran netminder for his service with the Leafs, but admitted the team was ready to move in a new direction.  

Joseph has not yet decided on whether he will play next season or not.

However, the announcement that Joseph will not be returning was shortly thereafter trumped, when the Toronto Sun reported that the Leafs will not renew the contract of Justin Pogge.

Once touted as the goaltender of the future, Pogge is a pending restricted free agent.

And while I am not sold on this move, one can argue that Pogge has been slow in the development process, it is hard to see from this standpoint, why a team that lacks goaltending depth would simply let one of their prospects walk for nothing.

The more logical step at this point would be to qualify Pogge, in hopes of including him in a package trade, possibly to obtain more draft picks in a few weeks time.

Of course the proposed idea that Pogge won't be qualified is merely hearsay at this point, but it certainly would be a bit of a bold move, from a GM looking to put his stamp on the team.  Goalies typically take a while to develop, but three years in the AHL, and Justin Pogge isn't even a starter.  

There is little question the patience is running thin within the organization.

So where exactly does that leave the Maple Leafs goaltending situation?

Well, the obvious word making the rounds is that they would like to go into next season with a Vesa Toskala/Jonas Gustavsson tandem, though that is far from the only option.

Start with Toskala, where it is all but a given he will be on this team next year.  Toskala is coming off a sub par year, in which he played most of it injured before being shut down at the trade deadline.  There is a lot of faith in Vesa from both Burke and coach Ron Wilson that he can be the team's No. 1 goalie.

Toskala, who is recovering from off-season surgery, is said to be excited to get back in the net and prove last year was an injury riddled year, and not indicative of the skill set the Finnish netminder can display.

Besides, even if they wanted to rid themselves of Toskala (which I personally wouldn't do) his contract makes it very hard to do right now.  And with only one year remaining on a deal that sees him paid $4 million, a buyout doesn't make sense.

There is always the option, if deemed expendable, that Toskala could be traded to a contender at the deadline if his season stats improve.

So who backs him up?  Well, you're guess is as good as mine.  But here are a few options.

Jonas Gustavsson: It looks like the talks between the Leafs and "The Monster" have cooled off.  In fact, Burke, like the other teams involved, were simply giving the Swedish goaltender some space after the unfortunate passing of his mother.

Gustavsson is apparently ready to put the pursuit back on, and will visit a few cities, Fabian Brunnstrom style, before making a decision.  The Leafs and Avalanche are believed the front runners at this point.


Martin Gerber: Yes he may be a Senators "castoff."  Yes he may be an older goalie, and two goalies aged thirty and over doesn't exactly scream rebuild.  But let's face it, Martin Gerber played pretty well for the Leafs down the stretch.  

A waiver wire pickup on deadline day, Gerber was immediately thrust into action and pulled off a few stellar performances for Toronto in goal.  Despite his meltdown in Ottawa, Gerber proved to be a steady option for Toronto last year when called upon, and on paper, he and Toskala could prove to be a solid duo in between the pipes.


Craig Anderson: Anderson was a virtual saint for the Panthers last year.  There was a point where he about stole the starters job from Tomas Vokoun, and his numbers were admirable for the team in which he was on.  

At the age of 28, Anderson is starting to turn out quality numbers, and while I don't know if he will ever be a starter,  he would be an inexpensive option for the Leafs at the backup position.

These are just a few of the options the Maple Leafs have to run with as free agency nears.  While there isn't per say strong options in the goalie market this summer, there is a few solid options for backup.  

It's another big year for the Maple Leafs goaltending.  Last year, everything seemed so rosy.

"Vesa will probably play 70-75 starts, and Cujo will just stand in there the rest of the time."

That was the mantra of Maple Leafs fans-myself included-last summer around this time.  On paper, it works out wonderfully.  Unfortunately as we found out through this past season, the games aren't played on paper.

There are a ton of questions surrounding the Maple Leafs this year, and, like the rebuild itself, it starts from the net out.


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