The Leafs have been a bit of a strange beast this season. They’ve lost a lot, like we thought they would. They’ve had trouble scoring goals, like we thought they would. But one area where the sense was they should be set up quite well, between the pipes, has been getting a lot of attention in the last week, and now there are rumblings of the team looking to make some changes there with the long term in mind.
First off, we have to note that James Reimer is having a good November so a section of Leafs fans don’t try to burn down my house. But it’s tough to say if the team has anyone in the organization they feel is reliable in terms of turning out quality starts consistently over the next couple years as they try to turn the corner and call up more highly-skilled youngsters. It seems they’re not convinced.
From Friedman on FAN590 (via Chris Nichols at TSS):
“To me right now, the biggest question this organization has is: ‘What are we going to look like in goal in three years?…That is the question I think they’ve got to be asking. I know they’ve started looking around and seeing what is available out there. Because I look at their organization right now and I see young players coming at forward. I see some young defensemen. I don’t see clarity long term in goal. And in this league, if you don’t have goaltending – you don’t got nothing.”
Three years out is an interesting timeline, and it raises a few questions about who the Leafs might feel like targeting. For that reason we’re going to break this thing into a couple parts and focus on true “futures” in the next piece. Right now let’s take a gander at who, as an already-established name, might make sense.
Gibson is just 22-years-old, so he definitely represents a long-term option, perhaps one of the best out there right now in that regard. But this would be a big move by the Ducks, as he’s been pegged as their go-to in the future for some time now. Still, after a 23-game stint last year in the NHL he’s been sent back to the ‘A’ to grab some starts while the Ducks run out Andersen as their number one, and rightfully so. You wonder how long this will go on before they send one guy out to shore things up elsewhere in their lineup, especially given their title of Cup contenders has sort of been forfeited already this season. And there’s no doubt Gibson would command a nice haul. It should be noted the Leafs have had a history dealing with the Ducks as well.
Let’s be clear: there’s like a zero percent chance the Lightning would deal Bishop this season. They’re supposed to be a true Cup contender and are looking to capitalize on a nice window here, especially considering their franchise scorer doesn’t have a contract beyond 2016. But it’s no secret they have a potentially elite option waiting in the wings in Andrei Vasilevskiy, a guy many probably consider the best goaltender on the planet who isn’t getting regular NHL starts.
After this season though, things get a little more interesting. Bishop has a contract expiring in 2017, and by the time the summer rolls around, they might have a clearer picture of how they want to move forward with Vasilevskiy. Moving Bishop out before he gets into the last year of his contract would make sense from a recouping assets standpoint, not to mention clearing off the 5.95-million he’ll be owed.
The big question here, of course, is whether Bishop, at twenty-nine, makes sense for a team like the Leafs. He’s better than Reimer or Bernier, but you’d basically be bringing in a guy at the same age and with a bigger cap hit – one you’ll have to negotiate again in 2017. I’d personally take a hard pass here, but he’s at least worth mentioning as an option, and he’s someone with a good chance of having their name pop up in trade rumors over the next 10 months.
It isn’t enough that the Leafs are going to take the Lightning’s franchise forward from them, they should make plays at all their goalies while they’re at it.
Seriously though, there’s likely an upcoming decision to be made here by Tampa, and Toronto should be knocking on the door to see what’s happening. Like we said above, Vasilevskiy looks like he’ll be a high-end starter for whoever he’s going to suit up for, so for Yzerman to move him would be pretty jaw-dropping. But Lamoriello has made a priority of goaltending in the past and recently pulled off one of the bigger deals for shoring up his crease when he dealt for Schneider in Jersey. It isn’t the type of move he’s afraid of, obviously, which is sure to fire up some debate in this world of “goalies are voodoo” many of us are living in.
I’d take this little tidbit with a major grain of salt, since Garrioch is “Malkin to the Kings” guy, but if there’s any truth to it, it sort of feeds into that same thinking: the Leafs wouldn’t be opposed to making a big play for a tender.
“As reported in this space last week, Toronto GM Lou Lamoriello has been sniffing around for a goalie and he’s pretty much willing to discuss any player on the roster with the exception of D Morgan Rielly…”
Again, no specifics or much to chew on there, but along with the Friedman quotes it does imply the Leafs are taking the goaltending search quite seriously. Definitely more than I would have predicted before the season started.
Like the title suggests, these are fairly big names to go after, and it would take a lot to see either of them moved. But with the way the goalie market has been shaped over the last couple years, it’s certainly not impossible to see netminders of this magnitude become available.