Earlier this summer we reported on a rumor that free agent goalie Jhonas Enroth was close to signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs had acquired Frederik Andersen from Anahiem, shipped off last Jonathan Bernier (also to Anaheim), and traded away James Reimer at the deadline. As it stands now, one of Garret Sparks or Antoine Bibeau are set for the backup role, but most pundits agree that the Leafs are looking for a more experienced backup. Bibeau has not played an NHL game, and Sparks was wildly inconsistent in his few starts at the season’s tail end.
That is where Enroth comes in. Enroth went 7-5-1 in 13 starts for the Los Angeles Kings last season, collecting a .922 SV% and a 2.17 GAA. It was the goalie’s best performance of his career, though playing on the Kings certainly helped. The backup goalie market is always saturated, and this year is no exception, but Enroth stands out as the best of the bunch. Most backups last year with similar numbers had either a low SV% and a high GAA, or vice-versa. Enroth represents the safe choice for a team looking for a stable veteran backup.
So why hasn’t Enroth signed? If Enroth is going to the Leafs as reported, the team will have to do some creative cap maneuvering. Right now the Leafs have a mere $435,000 in cap space—less than the league minimum salary. Part of the problem is that Jared Cowen’s buyout is being held up due to injury. As we reported here, a player cannot be bought out unless they are healthy. Once Cowen’s situation is worked out, the Leafs will have more cap certainty. But that isn’t the full story. Teams can exceed the cap by 10% during the offseason as long as they are cap compliant once the season starts. That means that the Leafs can exceed the cap by $7.3MM, more than enough to sign Enroth. Becoming cap compliant shouldn’t be an issue either, as Stephane Robidas, Nathan Horton, and Joffrey Lupul are expected (but not guaranteed) to be placed on LTIR once the season starts.
The other explanation is that Enroth will not sign with the Leafs. If so, the Leafs will have slim pickings this late for a backup of Enroth’s caliber. Former Calgary Flames goalie Karri Ramo is the only comparable backup left on the market. He appeared in 37 games for the Flames, going 17-18-1 with a .909 SV% and a 2.63GAA. Those numbers are consistent throughout his career, so the Leafs know what they would be getting. The only other free agent goalies to play meaningful games last year are Anders Lindback (.894 SV% and 3.11GAA) and Joni Ortio (.902 SV% and 2.76 GAA), but neither represent attractive options.