The Toronto Maple Leafs watched this postseason as past goaltenders suited up for other teams. Not only did they have to watch Tuukka Rask, a Maple Leafs’ draft pick, nearly take home the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, but even Curtis McElhinney with the Carolina Hurricanes eight months after losing him on waivers. McElhinney was excellent for the Hurricanes all season when called upon while Garret Sparks, the goaltender that was kept instead, struggled at various times throughout the year. Sparks finished with just a .902 save percentage through 20 appearances, and now may be headed somewhere else. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that the Maple Leafs are “quietly” shopping Sparks in trade talks.
Sparks, 25, actually signed a one-year contract extension with the Maple Leafs just a few months ago, a deal that will pay him $750K next season. That kind of low cap hit is exactly what Toronto needs from their backup goaltender given how much they’re spending on the rest of the roster, but they also need some consistency in net behind Frederik Andersen. Andersen has started more games and faced more shots than any other netminder over the past three seasons, something that likely won’t change unless Sparks takes a necessary step forward or the Maple Leafs bring in a different option.
They can’t spend much more than that $750K however, given the incoming contracts for Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. Even if the team is able to rid themselves of Nikita Zaitsev and Patrick Marleau they will still be in a cap crunch where every dollar counts. There are several veteran options on the market this summer, but a rare few (if any) will be taking close to the league minimum.
There is also the situation behind Sparks for the Maple Leafs to worry about. Kasimir Kaskisuo likely pencils in as the third option on the depth chart, and the 25-year old has struggled at times in the AHL. Toronto does have Ian Scott and Joseph Woll in the system, but both are just about to start their professional careers and shouldn’t be relied on for anything at this point.