Okay, so let’s start off with the clarifying what Plans A & B are.
Plan A would be that Michael Hutchinson is ready and able to be the Leafs backup goaltender this season. He hasn’t really done a whole lot to aspire confidence in that role, and the excitement about him simply not being Garret Sparks has worn off now that Sparks is completely out of the picture.
Plan B would be that Michal Neuvirth is recovered from what has been ailing him the past couple of years and is ready to get back on track as true backup goaltender that doesn’t induce a major panic attack whenever we notice there are back to back games on the schedule. Getting hurt in camp wasn’t a good start, but with Neuvirth slated for two periods of hockey on Saturday night we might be inching in the direction we want to go.
At this point I’m going to assume that Kaskisuo and Halverson are Plans D & E.
That brings us to Plan C. The waiver wire. Every year plenty of goaltenders have to clear in order to make it to their parent clubs AHL affiliate. You may remember last season when the Leafs lost both Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard to this situation. McElhinney went on to fill us with waivers remorse, and Calvin Pickard less so. Anyways, I think this establishes that waivers are a part of life for goaltenders 3rd or 4th on the depth chart.
Why bring this up?
Well, the Lightning just waived Mike Condon and Louis Domingue today, both of who you could make a case for being upgrades for the Leafs, assuming Neuvirth doesn’t pan out. While debating whether or not the Leafs should claim them seems like a fun debate to pass 24 hours, there is the added hiccup of both of them not being able to fit into the Leafs cap situation.
Screwed by Marner, again!
So that inspired me to take a very brief look at goaltending depth around the league and filtering for the goaltenders who are waivers exempt, too expensive, and/or guaranteed a spot in the NHL, here’s the list of goaltenders who could be available to the Leafs in the coming weeks…
The term you are looking for to describe that list is icky and hilariously four of the options are former Leafs.
At a first glance you are probably putting even more eggs in Neuvirth’s basket hoping for the best, but there are a few goaltenders that may warrant some consideration, and for the purpose of making this a tolerable post, we’ll short list it to six goaltenders.
- Anton Forsberg
- Eric Comrie
- Tristan Jarry
- J.F. Berube
- Calvin Pickard
- Oscar Dansk
Each of these goaltenders have their strengths but still some major question marks attached to them.
Forsberg is probably the best bet of the bunch to step in and serve in the backup role to above the level of Hutchinson. Berube is a bit more a gamble, but if it is perceived that Hutchinson has taken a step backward from what the Leafs were already getting from him.
As for Pickard, well, he’s on the short list because of his familiarity with the Leafs. He’s not too far removed from the system and might be able to step back in comfortably, though it’s safe to say a year with the Marlies doesn’t make him an expert on the Leafs goaltending approach.
Jarry, Dansk and Comrie are the interesting options, especially Dansk. These are goaltenders who are getting close to being ready to be NHL regulars, but might be getting bumped into duty a little earlier than what would be ideal.
Due to injuries Jarry has seen time with the Penguins and performed okay-ish. Personally, I maintain a fondness for him from his Edmonton Oil King days, and think that he might be the most capable of immediately stepping into a backup role. He’s been leapfrogged in the Penguins system, but that could still very well prove to be a bad decision.
Comrie, like Jarry was a highly touted goaltending prospect from the 2013 draft, but hasn’t had an ideal pro hockey journey. He’s a bit younger and less NHL experience to lean on, and certain doesn’t have the best AHL numbers to boot, but a lot of this premise is about chasing the same gamble the Golden Knights took a couple years back on Malcolm Subban, and Comrie is the youngest of the options I presented.
Finally Oscar Dansk has the high second round draft pick pedigree, and has five impressive games to his name in the NHL. His AHL numbers are the best of this group as well and there’s something satisfying about taking their good third string goaltender and leaving them with Sparks.
Anyways, I’m not the goaltender expert around these parts, I’ll leave the best recommendations to Cat Silverman, but what I do know is that there are some big question marks attached to Neuvirth and Hutchinson, and the cap situation has left the Leafs with other question marks as the best possible solutions. Perhaps it’s best to keep our fingers crossed about the guys already on the roster.