By Luke Fox (SN)
TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs have been kicking tires in goalie market for weeks now, but it’s time for Kyle Dubas to slip on a pair of steel-toed boots and get serious about adding to his depth in the crease.
Two things happened in Monday night’s dominant 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers that should hasten the search.
Starter Frederik Andersen left the game after getting knocked in the head, and backup Michael Hutchinson surrendered three goals on 13 shots, spoiling what coach Sheldon Keefe called “the best defensive game we’ve played the entire season.”
Even if Andersen—who passed concussion protocol and will be reevaluated Tuesday morning—is granted a clean bill of health, Monday’s scare should serve as a reminder how much the club’s playoff bid depends on having a capable netminder and how little pro goaltending experience the organization has in the minors.
Asked how much confidence he’d have in Hutchinson picking up Andersen’s workload if necessary, Keefe said this: “I’m not going to answer hypotheticals tonight.”
Not on the night Hutchinson recorded his 10th sub-.900 save percentage in 14 appearances.
So, with the trade deadline less than three weeks away, let’s look at eight of Dubas’s options.
Jack Campbell, Los Angeles Kings
With veteran Jonathan Quick signed to a nearly impossible-to-trade contract and 25-year-old Cal Petersen knocking at the door, the rebuilding Kings might be willing to part with Campbell.
We’ve learned that Dubas has kicked tires on the 28-year-old, who carries a friendly $675,000 cap hit this season, before his raise kicks in. Campbell’s AAV goes up to $1.65 million for 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Campbell hasn’t lived up to the expectations of a first-round draft pick (2011), but he has outperformed Quick the past two seasons and has a career .916 save percentage.
Dubas and Kings GM Rob Blake partnered up for a mutually beneficial deadline deal around this time last season, when the Leafs acquired Jake Muzzin.
Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins
Surpassed by Tristan Jarry on the Penguins’ depth chart and relegated to AHL work, DeSmith has posted a .917 save percentage at the NHL level and carries a manageable $1.25-million cap hit through 2021-22.
With neither Jarry nor Matt Murray under contract next season (both are RFAs due significant raises), Penguins GM Jim Rutherford may be reluctant to part with a sure thing but he is searching for help on the wings—Toronto’s greatest position of depth.
Alexandar Georgiev, New York Rangers
Georgiev may be the most obvious target in the bunch because the Rangers are that rare club carrying three goaltenders, and Georgiev is the one available.
The Bulgarian has a winning record (12-10-1, .909) for a losing team and his cap hit is a beauty — $729,500 — until July 1, when he becomes a restricted free agent.
The Rangers are in the market for young forwards, a Leafs specialty, and although Jeff Gorton’s asking price is high, we do wonder if it comes down closer to Feb. 24. Splitting starts between three capable goalies gets old fast.
Aaron Dell, San Jose Sharks
With all the bad news in San Jose this season, backup Dell has quietly enjoyed a good-news campaign, surpassing Martin Jones as the goaltender most likely to deliver the Sharks a win.
Dell has been victorious in five of his past nine starts despite getting minimal run support. He’s an impending UFA with a $1.9-million cap hit and could be a low-risk gamble as a rental option.
Corey Crawford or Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks
The snag here, besides cap hit, is that Stan Bowman is unlikely to declare himself a seller just yet—and may turn into a buyer.
Arizona is stumbling, and Chicago is surging in the West’s wild-card race. The Blackhawks sit just three points back and hold two games in hand.
The 35-year-old Crawford ($6-million cap hit) and 28-year-old Lehner ($5 million) are sharing starter’s duties as they speed toward unrestricted free agency. One of them won’t be back in Chicago next season. Both are having great campaigns.
Crawford can name 10 teams to which he’s willing to accept a trade. Lehner doesn’t have that luxury.
The only way we this option being realistic is if Andersen were to go on LTIR.
Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
The same goes for Anderson, who also hold a 10-team yes-trade list and is in the final season of a deal that pays him an AAV of $4.75 million.
The 38-year-old veteran proved he could backstop a hot team to deep run, as he did in spectacular fashion during the Sens’ run in the spring of 2017, posting a .926 save percentage.
Although it would be bizarre seeing Anderson flip sides in the Battle of Ontario, one wonders if he’d be willing to go just about anywhere for one last shot at meaningful games.
And if Ottawa can get anything for Anderson to help with the rebuild, fantastic.
Ryan Miller, Anaheim Ducks
As awful as Anaheim has performed this season, the Ducks’ goaltending has not been the issue. Even at 39, Miller is posting above-average numbers (6-5-2, .912 SV%). While he’s three years removed from a starter’s workload, Miller has adapted to the support role nicely, earning his modest $1.125-million salary.
While it’s doubtful Miller would be too excited by the thought of leaving his family in sunny California for pressure-packed Toronto, his old Buffalo rival — and he does hold a six-team approved trade list — the goaltender is entering his final days.
This could be his final chance at a Stanley Cup, and the playoffs aren’t coming to Disneyland anytime soon.