Please note that I wrote this prior to the Leafs imploding in front of Andersen against the Flyers, so you can pretty much take every point, double underline them and put them in bold. Maybe add some blingee glitter to it, and animated emojis too. The Leafs need some help.
Kyle Dubas on #Leafs potentially pursuing trade for a new back-up goalie: “What I would really like more than anything is for us to put together a good game in front of Michael here in the coming stretch. We need to give him an opportunity as well.”
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) December 2, 2019
This doesn’t seem like a GM who is actively looking for a new backup goaltender. Or at least it looks like a GM who isn’t overly thrilled that 30 other GMs are quite content to gouge him on any potential deal for one. So perhaps it’s better to quietly accept what we cannot change, acknowledge that Kyle Dubas is very well aware of the problem, and accept that he’s done the analysis on what poor goaltending is costing the Leafs compared to what addressing it would cost the team.
I’m going to make a bold prediction and say if the Leafs stick with Hutchinson, he’ll defy that pace and pick up a few wins, but to match the 10 wins that the Sparks/Hutchinson tandem had last year, Kaskisuo/Hutchinson would need to win 10 out of 13. Even if the Leafs go with a top flight backup, that isn’t happening, but it’s worth noting how things have steadily gotten worse since McElhinney.
Additionally, that puts a hell of a lot of pressure on Freddie Andersen. Right now the Leafs have picked up 69% (nice) of the points available in Freddie Andersen starts, the Leafs would need to pick up around 60-63% of the available points the rest of the way to make the playoffs. Assuming the same pace of starts for Andersen, and the same point percentage, he’s good to provide the Leafs with 56 points, meaning the Leafs need a backup capable of providing them with 8 to 12 points over 13 games, which would require a 31-46% point percentage when they’ve received 6%.
The moral of the story is that if the Leafs keep on winning for Andersen, they don’t need a world beater backup, just a capable one. The cautionary tale of the story is that the success under Andersen may dip as well and it would be nice to have someone to pick up the slack.
So, who might even be available?
Well, the list isn’t particularly long or distinguished. Assuming the Leafs don’t want simply roll the dice and go with another 3rd string goaltender who might just need that “dare to be great” situation and they want to go with a legitimate NHL backup, that probably limits them to goaltenders who are decidedly not on playoff teams, not potentially the goaltender of the future for the organization, and somehow despite those first two factors, not completely terrible.
The catch with absolutely every single one of those options is that it would require the Leafs to pull off a small salary cap miracle in the process of requiring them, but the names that might be out there are…
- Ryan Miller, 8GP .906Sv%, $1.125M AAV The catch with Miller is that he’s the starter until Gibson is healed up, he has a full NTC and moved to California to be near his wife, and only has a year left on his deal meaning the Leafs will be back in the same boat of needing to find a backup next season unless they want to re-up with a 40 year old goaltender.
- Jack Campbell, 10GP, .894Sv%, $675k AAV I wonder if the Kings truly believe that Campbell is a fit for them long term or if they see him as a worthwhile trade chip. His current cap hit is ideal for the Leafs, the next couple of years at $1.65M aren’t terrible either. It’s seems also worth noting that he played 34 games for the Keefe/Dubas Soo Greyhounds. The price tag on Campbell is probably high, but it might be worth paying, though the Kings probably view moving on from Jonathan Quick as their more favourable option.
- Collin Delia, AHL, $1M AAV Delia has had a tough year in the AHL, but was a .906 Sv% goaltender in the 16 NHL games he played last season, and at 25 still has a future in front of him. It’s hard to imagine the Blackhawks want to move on from him, and paying the price to pry him out of their organization might not be worth it.
- Corey Crawford, 15GP, .909Sv%, $6M AAV Crawford is on his way out in Chicago, and Lehner is their future. It’s worth noting there is no way in hell that the Leafs can take on $6M in salary, so salary would have to head back and additionally the Hawks would likely need to retain a good chunk of Crawford’s pay. I mention Crawford as the best option if the Leafs wanted to ride a tandem through the year and honestly Crawford is just as unrealistic an option as every other name I’ve floated.
- Charlie Lindgren, AHL, $750k I can’t remember the last time that the Leafs and Habs made a trade, even a minor one, but Kinkaid unlikely to be moved, and Primeau the goaltender of the future, or at least the future backup behind Price, Lindgren is expendable. He’s an absolute crap shoot on what he’ll be, and I can’t imagine a world where the Habs help out the Leafs.
- Howard/Bernier/Comrie/Pickard Right now the Howard injury slows down the discussion about him as an option, Comrie has age on his side, so that leaves the idea of Bernier or Pickard returning to the Leafs as options. Neither seems appealing, but Pickard does have a lot of familiarity with Keefe and maybe that’s a plus.
- Jake Allen, 8GP, .926Sv%, $4.35M AAV Allen is seems like the ideal option, and I have my doubts he is happy playing as little as he is when he’s as good as he is. I also think the Blues aren’t too happy about spending that much on a limited usage backup when they can call up Ville Husso and have a decent backup at league minimum. There’s a lot of salary shuffles that would need to happen, but bringing in Allen for this year and next has always held some appeal to me.
So that’s the short list and reality is that it will involve the Leafs paying for goaltending and sending out an asset if they are going to do it right. I’ve got my fingers crossed that they will do it right. Goaltending may be hard to predict statistically and the numbers we have to work with don’t capture the benefit of paying to upgrade from Hutchinson to Campbell, but that doesn’t make the point any less valid, it just likely points to the greater need in determining the best way to quantify goaltending.
As for who is the best name on the list, well, I’d go with the name that Steve Briere says he wants to work with the most. The goaltending coach knows the style of goaltender that works with the way the Leafs play. He knows who can handle the types of shots come up against the Leafs the most, I’d yield to the expert, not the statistician. Unless that expert is saying that Hutchinson is the best bet, then I’d question if you have the right expert.