The Toronto Maple Leafs have a tough decision in front of them in net as head coach Mike Babcock and general manager Kyle Dubas must decide who will be their backup goalie as the team still has four goalies on their training camp roster, including starter Frederik Andersen, incumbent backup Curtis McElhinney as well as AHL stars Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard, according to Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star.
That could be a bigger decision than thought despite the solid season that McElhinney had last year. The 35-year-old posted a 2.14 GAA and a .934 save percentage in 18 games last year, but is on the final year of a team-friendly contract ($850K) and could conceivably cost the team, expected to have cap problems starting next season, quite a bit next season. Sparks, on the other hand, will just be a restricted free agent next season after posting impressive numbers for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, the Calder Cup champions, when the 25-year-old posted a 1.79 GAA in 43 games with a .936 save percentage. Pickard, thought to be the future of the Vegas Golden Knights, is also on the roster.
The fear is the team would likely lose Sparks if they place him on waivers to send him to the AHL, which might force the team to decide which player they would rather have, not just this season, but as their future long-term backup. Pickard, who was a backup in Colorado two years ago, could also be lost as well if they decide to place him on waivers.
- McGran, in the same story, adds that the Maple Leafs are also looking to trade a few of their players, most notably defenseman Connor Carrick, who the team fears they will lose if they place him on waivers. Carrick got into 47 games last season, posting four goals and 12 points, but could be highly coveted by teams with defensive issues such as the Vancouver Canucks or even the Detroit Red Wings.
- The Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan writes that veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall tweaked something in practice and now is questionable for the team’s season opener, joining Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley as questionable for Thursday. Mike Green is already considered out. With those potential losses, Detroit will have to depend on their plethora of young defensemen to fill in. Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James writes that defenseman Dennis Cholowski has already won a spot on the team’s defense, but Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts and Libor Sulak all could stay depending on those injuries.
- While there is no specific word on whether or not he’s made the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s expected that rookie Mathieu Joseph is a top candidate to make the team, according to Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times. Joseph stands out the most with a preseason high of four goals. The scribe describes Joseph as a future star, who could come out of no where such as Brayden Point.