With the signing of goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, Justin Pogge knew his future in Toronto wasn't so bright any more.
About a year ago, I wrote an article about whether or not Justin Pogge was ready for the NHL (see below). At 6'3" and 204 lbs, he is a big goalie with great potential.
He posted excellent numbers during his junior career (even winning a gold medal with the 2006 Canadian World Junior Team), and decent numbers during his 2007-08 season with the Marlies (26-10-4, 2.34 G.A.A., .908 SV%, and four shutouts). Even still, I said I did not think he was quite NHL-ready.
Obviously, I was correct. Even though Pogge stopped 19 shots in his first NHL start for a 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers, he finished his season with the Leafs with a record of 1-4-1, a G.A.A. of 4.35, and a save-percentage of .844.
Pogge also had a weak season with the Marlies in 2008-09, posting a record of 26-21-5, a G.A.A. of 2.70, a save-percentage of .895, and not a single shutout.
And now with Gustavsson added to the mix, it doesn't look like Pogge will be a regular on the Leafs roster any time soon. The GM of Toronto, Brian Burke, signed Pogge to a one-year deal this offseason, and told him he will trade him to a place where he will have a better opportunity to play.
But where could Pogge be headed to? What NHL teams need a goaltending prospect such as himself, and what teams have something Brian Burke would like in return?
Unfortunately for Pogge, there really aren't too many NHL teams that lack goaltending depth, or that would even want a goalie that has yet to prove himself at an NHL level, and one that has even shown inconsistency in the AHL.
However, of all the teams I looked into, I believe Pogge's best oppurtunity would be with the Chicago Blackhawks (Note: I am merely speculating. I have not heard any real trade rumours in regard to Pogge).
On July 1st, 2009, Nikolai Khabibulin signed a four-year deal worth $15 million with the Edmonton Oilers, leaving Cristobal Huet as the starting goalie for the 'Hawks. However, it looks like they don't have any goalie who is a sure thing to be a back-up.
As for goaltending prospects, the Blackhawks have Corey Crawford. At age 24, he has spent three seasons in the AHL. This past season, he had a record of 22-20-3, a G.A.A. of 2.58, a save-percentage of .917, and two shutouts. Unless Chicago signs another goalie, it is likely Crawford could take over the back-up role for the 'Hawks.
Assuming Crawford does make a step-up to the NHL, this would leave a spot on the Rockford Icehogs, Chicago's AHL affiliate. Although Pogge would still be playing in the minors, I think he would still have a better chance of seeing more NHL action than he would in Toronto.
And although I wouldn't classify Cristobal Huet as old, he will be turning 34 before the 2008-09 season has begun, and soon enough his career will have to come to an end, giving Pogge a legitimate shot at getting a spot on an NHL roster.
So, who could the Leafs obtain from the 'Hawks for Pogge?
I think maybe a prospect such as Bryan Bickell would be of use to the Leafs. At 6'4", and 218 lbs., the 23 year-old native of Bowmanville, Ontario was drafted by Chicago 41st overall in the 2004 draft. During the 2007-08 season, the left-winger was third on the Rockford Icehogs for goals (19) and sixth for points (39).
However, in the 2008-09 season, he scored only six goals, and finished with 14 points in 42 games. In seven NHL games with the Blackhawks, he has two goals, no assists, and two penalty minutes.
Bickell is a strong hitter, a good skater, and also has a good shot. Overall, he has been said to have much potential, and is the kind of player Brian Burke likes. Since Chicago is filled with big, strong forwards, his opportunities have been limited, and would probably have a better chance of being an NHL regular if traded to the Leafs.
Other players and draft picks could be added to this trade to benefit both teams and players.
Whether you agree with my idea or not, it is a sure thing Justin Pogge will no longer be a Maple Leaf by the time the 2009-10 season has started. Once Toronto's goaltender of the future, he will now be a thing of the Leafs' past.
I wish him the best, and hope he one day does live up to what so many expected of him.
My Past Article on Pogge: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/35852-is-justin-pogge-ready-for-the-nhl