21 Goalies The Leafs Could Target This Summer

The Toronto Maple Leafs finished the 2015-16 NHL season without a clear #1 goalie in the organisation.  Over the past few years, Jonathan Bernier has failed to live up to the lofty expectations set for him by the management team that acquired him, while James Reimer was traded to San Jose for a draft pick.  Garret Sparks put up impressive numbers in the AHL, but wasn’t able to replicate that success in his first major NHL stint.  So it seems quite likely that the Leafs are going to look outside the organisation for at least one NHL goalie this summer.

Over the weekend, Jeff Veillette argued that the Leafs should just run Jonathan Bernier again next season, and it wasn’t that long ago that I also wrote about how Bernier could still be an NHL starter.  That’s certainly one option.  But if the Leafs do look to bring another goalie in, who might they target?

I’m going to look at three scenarios.  The first is the UFA market.  It’s a pretty thin market this summer, but there are a handful of options that they could try.  Any of those players would only be a stop-gap until the Leafs find a better long-term solution in net.  The second scenario is that they trade for veteran on another team.  With an expansion draft likely coming next summer, some of these goalies will definitely be on the move.  The final scenario, and the one I think is most appealing, is the Leafs trying to find a younger goalie who can stick around with the franchise and hopefully become the long-term starter.

A few of notes before I get to the goalies.  First, I do not intend for this to be an exhaustive list.  These are the options I would consider to be the best available, plus a few that are intriguing for other reasons.  Also, I’m only including goalies who have played at least a couple dozen NHL games.  I’m sure there are great prospects out there who don’t meet the criteria, but they’re not going to be included here.

All statistics listed below are taken from the past three NHL seasons plus playoffs.  I didn’t originally intend to include playoff stats, but War On Ice includes playoff stats by default, and I didn’t realise they were in my results until after I’d gathered all the data.  That’s not really a big problem, since increasing the sample size for goalies is usually helpful, and for a couple of the younger guys, in particular, it gives us far more games to work with.

The stats I’ve included are SV%, which you’re probably familiar with, high-danger SV% at 5v5, and 5v5 SV%.  As a general rule, 5v5 SV% is a better predictor of future performance than regular SV% once you get to larger sample sizes like 100 games or more.  HD SV% is taken only from shots from the “high danger” scoring chance area as defined by War On Ice, and is generally considered a better way to measure goalie skill than SV% on low danger shots, which are far more random.

UFA GOALIES

Player GP SV% HD SV% (5v5) 5v5 SV%
James Reimer 112 0.913 0.854 0.926
Jhonas Enroth 94 0.909 0.836 0.923
Chad Johnson 91 0.915 0.827 0.923
Anton Khudobin 79 0.914 0.823 0.920
League Average
0.915 0.835 0.924

If the Leafs go the UFA route, the best available option would be to just bring back James Reimer.  In a thin UFA class, he’s the most capable, and the one who’s carried the heaviest load in recent seasons.  His high-danger SV% is also far better than that of anyone else listed here.  Chad Johnson or Jhonas Enroth are decent options if Reimer doesn’t work out.

Anton Khudobin has said he’s going back to the KHL, so he’s probably not a realistic target, but I thought I’d include him since his statistics are fairly comparable to the other guys listed here.

VETERAN TRADE OPTIONS

(For the purposes of this article, “veteran” means anyone over 25 years old.)

Player Team GP SV% HD SV% (5v5) 5v5 SV%
Marc-Andre Fleury PIT 206 0.918 0.838 0.926
Frederik Andersen ANA 153 0.918 0.824 0.926
Craig Anderson OTT 152 0.918 0.838 0.929
Thomas Greiss NYI 97 0.920 0.865 0.931
Darcy Kuemper MIN 85 0.912 0.837 0.922
Michal Neuvirth PHI 83 0.922 0.855 0.928
Antti Raanta NYR 67 0.914 0.838 0.920
Scott Darling CHI 48 0.924 0.852 0.931

I think the Leafs should be hesitant to give up good assets for any of the players on this list.  It’s unlikely that someone like Marc-Andre Fleury or Craig Anderson is capable of leading a team to a Cup when the Leafs’ window opens up (hopefully) a few years from now.

All of the goalies listed here share one thing in common, which is that they’re all on teams that have another goalie they may want to protect in an expansion draft next summer.  Because of that, they could be looking to move their other goalie before then.

Of the goalies listed here, Frederik Andersen and Scott Darling are probably the two who would hold the most interest for the Leafs as they’re on the younger end of goalies listed here.  Andersen seems likely to be on the move, as Anaheim wouldn’t be able to protect both him and John Gibson in an expansion draft.  However, it’s worth noting that his high-danger SV% is not particularly good, which is a bit worrisome over such a large sample size.

The Chicago Blackhawks, who have a very dicey salary cap situation, will almost certainly want to keep Darling, who makes a league minimum salary and has played well in limited NHL minutes.  However, it’s possible that the Leafs could find a way to acquire Darling at a low cost if they agree to help Chicago out with their cap difficulties in return.

If the Leafs just want a stop-gap in net, Neuvirth, Greiss, and Anderson all present reasonable options, and are perhaps a bit better than any of the free agents the Leafs might sign.

YOUNGER TRADE OPTIONS

Player Team GP SV% HD SV% (5v5) 5v5 SV%
Petr Mrazek DET 102 0.921 0.841 0.929
John Gibson ANA 72 0.919 0.801 0.922
Andrei Vasilevskiy TBL 52 0.915 0.876 0.925
Philipp Grubauer WSH 41 0.916 0.852 0.923
Calvin Pickard COL 36 0.927 0.866 0.939
Matt Murray PIT 33 0.926 0.866 0.934
Joonas Korpisalo CBJ 31 0.920 0.862 0.934
Connor Hellebuyck WPG 26 0.918 0.849 0.939

[Update: This list originally included Andrew Hammond, because for some reason I mistakenly believed he was under 26 years old. He’s 28, and so I’ve edited the list to remove him.]

For my money, aiming for a younger goalie who can stick with the Leafs as their prospects develop should be the preferred option.  Tampa Bay trading for Lindback and Bishop, and then letting them fight to establish who was the #1, is a good example of the kind of approach I’d like to see the Leafs take.

Petr Mrazek is far and away the best option on this list.  He’s also probably a player the Red Wings would prefer to keep, instead finding someone to take Jimmy Howard off their hands.  But if I was running the Leafs, Mrazek is the rare goalie I would actually give up good assets for, as he’s established well above-average #s in all three forms of SV% listed here, and the sample size of 102 games is large enough to have some confidence that he’s really that good.

John Gibson’s numbers are interesting. His regular SV% is quite good, but his high-danger and 5v5 SV%s are both concerning.  He may not be as good as his overall SV% makes him look.  On the other hand, he’s had very good numbers outside the NHL as well, and that ought to be taken into account.

Some of the goalies on this list might not be likely to get traded.  I’d expect the first three goalies listed to remain where they are, as their teams get rid of their veteran goalies instead.  Matt Murray is likely sticking around in Pittsburgh, too.

The remaining names are all worth considering.  Washington won’t be able to keep Grubauer, as Holtby is clearly their starter, so he could be an option for the Leafs.  Korpisalo isn’t going to supplant Sergei Bobrovsky, so he could be on the move too.  Winnipeg would be wise to keep Hellebuyck and ditch Pavelec, but it would have been smart to ditch Pavelec long before now, and the Jets have stuck with him.  Calvin Pickard has put up exceptional numbers in limited NHL minutes and is a guy that any team needing a goalie might want to take a look at.  As a bonus, he plays for the Colorado Avalanche, and any time you can trade with the Avalanche you should jump on it.

There are quite a few options potentially available to the Leafs this summer.  Ideally, they would decide to focus on acquiring one (or two) of the younger goalies who will have the opportunity to grow with the team.  But if they want to bring in a short-term solution while they continue to build up the prospect depth, there are a handful of reasonable options available either on the free agent market or as potential trades.

  • DSP

    Winnipeg isn’t getting rid of Hellebyuck, Murry isn’t going anywhere after the Pens cup either. I think the best option may be a veteran goalie who can fill in for two or three years until the Marlies goalies develop a bit more. Anderson may be the option here from Ottawa but after giving them Dion they may not want to play ball there. Maybe try for Flurey.

  • Mitch92

    How does high danger SV% work, and does it hold any weighting that both Andersen & Gibson both have bad numbers (goaltending coach issues? Defensive lapse patterns for the Ducks?)

    I get the feeling Frederik Andersen will be a Leaf.

  • DSP

    I’d definitely target korpisalo and pickard. both have excellent track records in other leagues. korpisalo definitely impressed in his nhl stint when bobrovsky went down. he was fantastic on a really bad team. they’re the most realistic options on that list. the jets also have comrie who may be ready for backup duties soon so he could possibly be a target as well as jary who’s another up and coming penguins goalie who’s putting up great numbers in the ahl. other goalie prospects who will be ready by the time we’re ready to contend include the blues who have a lot of them, the islanders and the predators so we should look into them as well.

  • DSP

    Pickard and Grubauer are the most likely to be moved of the young guns. And the expansion draft and the surplus of goalies who will be available means the Leafs would likely be able to get either at below market rates.

    Pickard is especially impressive given that he played on a lousy team, certainly compared to Grubauer at least.

    A pie-in-the-sky option may be if the Cap goes down, and if Edmonton offer sheets Jones, then the Leafs could offer to trade Bernier at 2 mill retained plus next years 1st rounder plus a mid-ranked prospect to CBJ for Bobrovsky and CBJs 3rd OA this year. Then CBJ would have the cap space to resign Jones, they’d still get a high ranking pick (just a year later) and the goalie SV% in the swap are same over the past 2 years.

  • magesticRAGE

    Unless I get a steal for a young goalie (that I want), then I’m going with the UFA route. In a rebuild, I’m not about to dish off considerable assets for something unpredictable as goaltending. Maybe next year, after the organization gets more of an idea who the core will be. The rebuild is only a year in.
    I’ve said it before, Reimer is a good stopgap, whom the organization knows, who’s numbers last season stuck-up to other starters. He wouldn’t cost us assets to acquire. What if Bibeau is the guy, but it will a couple more years. Isn’t that worth being patient? I mean, the team is a few years away from contending anyway, what’s the rush? I know it’s fun to conjure up ideas and possibilities, but patience save money, and prevents foolish behavior.

  • Drapes55

    Just stick with Bernier and reassess after this year is done. Seeing as he’s in a contract year and has allot to prove after the last year, he’s the perfect candidate for a big year. The Leafs aren’t gonna make the playoffs next year, so why not give Bernier the chance to prove he can be their starter? If he plays well, great! Give him an extension or trade him to a struggling team who needs a goalie. If he plays horrible, the Leads finish near the bottom, Sparks and Bibeau get experience and the Leafs get a high pick. Basically a win win scenario.

  • id be very interested to see Pickard here.
    He’s seemed to put up decent numbers on a team with awful defence and zero structure. Plus they already have two other capable goalies. I bet we could get him for a low price and he could really surprise some people.

    • DSP

      Does anyone know what the average save percentage is in the AHL>? Pickard has been .917 in that league over 71 games. It might be lower than in the NHL but given his time spent in that league, information should probably be included as well.

  • Mitch92

    I think the trick is to find a club that is low on prospects and is willing to give up a goalie for a quantity of decent but not great prospects. I think Detroit may be that club. Mrazek for a Percy, Leivo, Sparks or Bibeau and a second round pick or something…

    I also like Greiss who I think could be had for less as he is seen as a career back-up but is actually better than that.

    I wonder if Bernier should get another year to get his game together.

    It’s kind of a strange situation we’re facing here as Babcock doesn’t seem to care much who is in goal and Lou is all about ‘building from the net out’.