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Goaltending trade targets for the Maple Leafs
By Shane Seney1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs have found themselves in an interesting spot. After entering the season with what they felt was an area of strength, all of a sudden they’ve started to dip their toes in the goaltending market.
General manager Brad Treliving has been reportedly making calls around the league to gauge who is available, who could become available, and what the acquisition cost will be. It’s doubtful Treliving would be interested in giving up the Leafs’ 2024 first-round pick or any of their top prospects for another goaltender. We’ll have to wait and see how creative the Leafs GM will end up having to be, that’s if he makes a move of course.
For now, Treliving has just dipped his, here’s five goalies to consider if he ends up jumping in the trade waters:
Perhaps the most interesting goalie among the list, Fleury has done it all and is the perfect backup for a young goalie like Joseph Woll. The future hall-of-famer won’t be rattled by the big moment and would be comfortable if he was called into action in relief in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Fleury hasn’t been his best this season in Minnesota, but the Wild are struggling so it’s hard to say how much you can read into his numbers. A 3.16 GAA and .892 Sv.% are nothing to write home about, however based on his decorated past of success, Fleury makes a ton of sense for Treliving to consider. Wild GM Bill Guerin will have to decide in late January what direction he wants to head and with the team hovering around the last wild card spot in the Western Conference, this trade would take awhile to materialize.
Fleury is 39, a pending free agent and on the books for $3.5 million cap hit. He does a full no-movement clause and will have all the say in any trade. Without a contract for next season this could be it for The Flower. Joining a Maple Leafs squad who are going for it this season could be a nice way to cap off an illustrious career.
Fleury’s certainly an intriguing option for Treliving to ponder as he continues to just dip his toes. Guerin’s likely going to hear from several contenders closer to the trade deadline so the acquisition price may become a touch inflated, which could easily take the Maple Leafs out of the picture.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are fighting for their playoff lives in January as Kyle Dubas is planning a wholesome evaluation of his roster ahead of the All-Star Game in Toronto. The Pens have struggled to find consistency offensively this season and one of their bright spots on the defensive side of the puck is backup tender Alex Nedeljkovic.
Dubas signed the 27-year-old for one-year $1.5 million on the first day of free agency hoping he’d push starter Tristan Jarry and Nedeljkovic has done exactly that. He’s appeared in 10 games, posting a 5-2-2 record along with a 2.64 GAA and .918 Sv.%. Impressive numbers considering the Penguins haven’t been a wagon this season and are fighting through some growing pains.
Nedeljkovic doesn’t have the type of resume Fleury has, however he’s known to be streaky and someone who is a great depth option. In 2020-21 he got some run with the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs and was lights out in nine games, posting a 2.17 GAA and .920 Sv.%.
It would be some kind of weird to see Dubas help the Maple Leafs in any fashion this season so a deal between the two clubs could appear very unlikely. Or, you could look at it from the other angle and see how Dubas knows the Leafs organization better than any other in the league. We’ve seen Patrik Allvin in Vancouver acquire a ton of players he once had in Pittsburgh. Dubas took Noel Accairi with him after three seasons of trying to acquire him and perhaps there’s a prospect with the Marlies or overseas who could tickle his fancy enough to trade Nedeljkovic to Toronto.
Gibson has been linked to the Leafs in the past and is certainly no stranger to trade rumors. However this season it seems different as the trade chatter has intensified in a major way and this could finally be the year the American netminder is moved.
The Ducks are headed for another NHL Draft Lottery and GM Pat Verbeek could look to shed Gibson’s contract and move his resources into other areas of his roster. The 30-year-old Pittsburgh native is signed through the 2026-27 season at $6.4 million AAV. Out of all of the goaltending targets who may come up for the Maple Leafs ahead of the trade deadline, Gibson is among the least likely to acquire. His contract is huge, and he’s not a proven winner in the playoffs. It’s always seemed like Gibson has had good numbers on bad teams so it would be interesting to see what he could do with a stacked roster in front of him for once.
Gibson has a World Cup and World Juniors under his belt, two tournaments where he stood on his head but that doesn’t seem like a fair comparable to say someone like Fleury who has won multiple Cups. If the Ducks were to retain 50% of his contract, then it could perk Treliving’s ears up, however Verbeek would then drive the price tag way up and likely into prospects the Leafs GM wouldn’t want to depart with.
Someone Treliving is very familiar with from their days in Calgary together, Vladar is another potential trade candidate for the Leafs. The Calgary Flames are open for business on just about anyone on their roster and with youngster Dustin Wolf in need of playing time, Vladar could easily become the odd man out in the crease.
Flames GM Craig Conroy has veteran Jakob Markstrom under contract for two more seasons at $6 million so Vladar, seven years younger and at just $2.2 million AAV through 2024-25, is much more appealing for onlooking teams. He’s a massive presence in the crease at 6-foot-5 and would be one of the biggest goalies to ever dress for the Maple Leafs if Treliving does in fact give Conroy a call. We know the two have chatted this season about Chris Tanev and the already traded Nikita Zadorov on the blue line, so perhaps Tanev and Vladar are the Flames package their ex-gm ends up with in the end.
The Maple Leafs goaltending situation is going to be a hot topic immediately after the NHL’s roster freeze is lifted. Treliving is currently dipping his toes, getting a feel for the water and unlike most seasons, there’s some interesting options floating around to consider. This year there’s a Flower, a Duck, a Penguin and a Flame. Decisions, decisions.
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