The Leafs have all of their forwards signed. In fact, they might just have too many. They also have all of their defencemen signed, and there might be an abundance there too. But between the pipes? Frederik Andersen is presumably the starting goalie after that trade and contract extension, but… who is supporting him? Our esteemed panel gives its opinions.
At this point, it seems inevitable that Jhonas Enroth will sign with Toronto. Enroth is undersized and undervalued, and that sounds like a Shanoriello signing to me. Realistically, what other quality goalie is available to sign?
I don’t want it to be true just yet, but I’m going to say Garret Sparks. He has some NHL experience, his numbers in the AHL have been solid. For a lot of teams in the NHL, if the Marlies’ depth was available to them, the answer would be clear… pull from the AHL. Sparks, in particular, has big league experience to justify pulling him up over Bibeau or Kaskisuo. Like I said, I don’t want Sparks to be the answer, because I would love to see both he and Bibeau develop more in the minors before being pulled up to the NHL… But I think that’s potentially the way it could go?
Given that Jhonas Enroth is one of the very few even remotely enticing goalies still left in free agency, and given that there’s already a rumor that he’s expected to sign with the Leafs, he’s the no-brainer answer to be the Leafs backup goalie behind Andersen. My guess is, if it is Enroth (which we don’t know for sure), that it’ll happen within the next week or two.
My pick is Frederik Andersen. Jonas Enroth will sign with the Leafs as is rumoured, and will win the starting job over the overtly average Andersen. To say Andersen is average is not a knock against him, and I don’t actually think Enroth is a better goalie. However, I’m just gut-feeling a situation where Enroth strings together some good games when Andersen strings together some bad ones, and the whole situation flips on its head.
I think we’ll have a better idea of the situation come Wednesday, as the second buyout window closes. At that point, Toronto’s cap situation is more or less locked in barring trades. In the meantime, we don’t know if their cap plan is to run to the edge and use Nathan Horton’s LTIR placement, or to pull away and make room for the potential bonuses associated with six of their rookie players.
I think that if they decide to eat into LTIR, the choice is very obviously Jhonas Enroth, who is easily the best goaltender left on the free market and has already been linked to the team. If they go with the latter solution, though, it gets trickier. Assuming that Enroth would cost about $1-1.5 million, having Garret Sparks in between the pipes and hoping that he looks like the goalie he was in his five pre-injury games rather than the appearances after it would go a long way, basically covering the Schedule A’s of one of the others.
With that said, I think the Leafs would be best off to give Sparks at least another half-year of grooming, even if just to continue to optimize his conditioning. If they feel the same way, signing Enroth and dealing with overages in a pretty empty cap year in 2017/18 is probably the best way to go.