Takin' a T/O with BT
When Toronto Maple Leafs' General Manager Brian Burke acquired Jean-Sebastien Giguere from the Anaheim Ducks over the weekend, nearly everything we knew about the Leafs' goaltending situation was thrown out of the window.
Once a team that employed hard-luck losers, rookies, and tandem goalies pushed into feature roles, the Blue and White had acquired their first legitimate starter since Ed Belfour.
In the grand scheme of things, it was a great move: The Leafs were able to alleviate their cap of Vesa Toskala's expiring (and underperforming) contract and, while they acquired more salary, they were at least able to get something for him (many believed the Leafs were saddled with both Toskala and Jason Blake—ironically dealt in the same trade).
For the Leafs' other goaltender, Swedish rookie Jonas Gustavsson, this move hurts in more ways than one.
It goes well beyond the fact that Gustavsson's starting role was taken back by the veteran Giguere barely a week after it had been promised to him by the Leafs' coaching staff.
It affects a situation that many had already jumped ahead to analyzing once he had been given the starter's role.
You see, Gustavsson is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, meaning that the Leafs need to decide how much he's worth to them.
Now, a raise from his current deal of $810,000 seems like a foregone conclusion. But when "The Monster" was preparing to shoulder the rest of the season, he was in prime bargaining position:
A) The Time Frame
While his 3.03 goals-against average, .899 save percentage, and 9-12-8 record were no groundbreaking measures, he was going to have an entire two-and-a-half months worth of games to improve upon them.
B) Who Else?
There were no other options for the Leafs. Toskala was gone at the end of the season and Joey MacDonald wasn't stealing Gustavsson's job in the long-term. Other than James Reimer or a journeyman free agent option, the Leafs were stuck going forward with Gustavsson.
C) Love, No Hate
The Leafs wanted Gustavsson to be their guy. If the love affair with Toronto had only gotten stronger, Gustavsson and his representatives could increase their standing a little bit to drive a harder bargain.
In the time since the trade, only one of those things hasn't changed: The Leafs still want Gustavasson to be their guy, but they don't need him to be right away.
For once, they can take their time to develop him properly behind a guy they can (hopefully) trust with a major load of games.
When the Leafs were bringing along Justin Pogge, neither Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, nor Curtis Joseph were able to afford them that luxury.
When Toronto got "Giggy" on the trade front (Seriously? You knew the joke had to be coming sooner or later. Plus it works on multiple levels. You know you like it), Gustavsson's bulk of the load went away. Giguere made no secret about the fact that he's playing to win and Ron Wilson is going to trust him with the lion's share of the workload.
Buh-bye contract foothold No. 1.
And (rather obviously), if the Leafs are willing to trust Giguere between the pipes over the next season-and-a-half, then why spend "big" money on Gustavsson?
See you later foothold No. 2.
If you want more proof, then the man who unseated Giguere in Anaheim is the perfect example. In his rookie season, Jonas Hiller went 10-7-1 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against—statistics far exceeding Gustavsson's, despite the smaller sample size.
Hiller's net worth the next two years? $1.3 million. For Gustavsson, that's a $500,000 raise.
Even Tuuka Rask will only be making $1 million next year, and (depending on what the Chicago Blackhawks do in the offseason) Antti Niemi may not even get that much of a raise thanks to limited cap room.
For those who had been predicting a "big raise" for Gustavsson come the offseason, it would be unjust if he were making more than Rask or Niemi next year, even as a starter.
Now? It's just unlikely.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out all of his previous work in his archives or at Hockey54.com—The Face of the Game!