Sparks, Kallgren, Georgiev and Campbell

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In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News and Rumors, I’ll spend some time looking at the team’s goaltending situation and what could happen on July 13th.

Related: Would Maple Leafs Fans Deal With The Devil To Win The Stanley Cup?

The team has plenty to choose from, but only a limited amount of salary cap space could hamper the decisions they have to make. What are some of the considerations the team might engage? What can we guess about the thinking of the organization?

Element One: Making a Decision About a Goalie

The biggest current mystery in the entire Maple Leafs goaltending situation is what could be going on behind the scenes. As always, I have no idea what GM Kyle Dubas (and his team of advisors) think, what direction they’re leaning, or what they might be trying to make happen. It will certainly be fun to see what is revealed when July 13 rolls around.

Is there a chance that Jack Campbell will return with the Toronto Maple Leafs?
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Because the goalkeeper position is unique, it’s probably the key decision the team will make for the upcoming season. This is the first time that this group has had the opportunity to put its own philosophy into practice. Frederik Andersen was already a starter when Dubas took over as general manager.

We can make assumptions from what happened in the past, but those assumptions can be tempered by time and experience. Four years ago, at the start of his career as general manager, before the start of the 2018-19 season, Dubas had to make a choice about his backup goalkeeper. Should the Maple Leafs stick with backup Curtis McElhinney, then 35, who is coming off the best season of his career? or, should they give one of their Toronto Marlies a chance in the NHL roster. Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard seemed ready at the time.

Related: Curtis McElhinney: The Journey to Becoming a Champion

At that time, whichever of the three goalies the team did not choose had to clear waivers before being sent off; and, the organization risked losing those it had not chosen. Around this time, the Maple Leafs selected Sparks as a replacement. In the end, it started well but didn’t work out. The other two guards were indeed torn from the waiver thread.

Sparks is now struggling in the minors of the Los Angeles Kings organization, having last played with reigning Ontario (California). His career path bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Jack Campbell before he found his way back to success as a goalkeeper. At that time, Dubas chose young and promising rather than experienced and reliable. Would he make the same choice?

What could we guess about this choice four seasons ago? And what have we learned since?

Point Two: The Risk and Reward of Going After Alexandrar Georgiev

None of us really have a clue what the Maple Leafs think about where to go with a goaltender, but I never let Dubas and his team do anything unexpected. One of the most unexpected might be going after New York Rangers replacement Alexandar Georgiev.

This choice is long and involves a ton of risk. However, it might also bring the most rewards. Maple Leafs fans should remember that Georgiev kept them with two spectacular 50-plus save games when he was young and when the Rangers weren’t a playoff team. Games like these are awesome and would be hard to forget.

New York Rangers Alexander Georgiev
New York Rangers’ Alexandrar Georgiev is a long shot for the Maple Leafs
(Jess Star/The Hockey Writers)

He’s an RFA coming out of a $2.45 million contract and expecting more money in his next one. It could be that, with the Rangers already having Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin in their net and not wanting to face arbitration with Georgiev, they would be willing to trade his rights with the Maple Leafs.

Related: Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson Trade Revisited

When it comes to Georgiev’s performance as an NHL goaltender, he’s been brilliant, but he’s also been average. He averaged around 30 games a season for Rangers and was a top substitute. Most hockey pundits think he’s ready for more action and would (given the chance) become a top starter. He is only 26 years old.

The problem is that it probably isn’t cheap. The Maple Leafs would have to trade his trading rights and then sign him before those arbitration rights go into effect. They are not in a situation where they can be blinded to where a referee might land with a Number.

Erik Kallgren Toronto Maple Leafs
Could Erik Kallgren be the answer for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
(Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The second problem is that if the Maple Leafs get it wrong, they’re stuck. And, unless a miracle happens with a younger goalkeeper (one Erik Kallgren or Joseph Woll) jumping in to take over, the window of opportunity could be reduced.

What to do?

What’s next for the Maple Leafs?

There are, of course, rumors that if Jack Campbell hits free agency, the New Jersey Devils have lined up to be one of his top contenders. Still, logic suggests the Detroit Red Wings might be the closest thing to home for the Port Huron native.

Related: Maple Leafs News and Rumors: Kadri, Campbell, Mikheyev and Goodbye

As I noted in yesterday’s post, it’s a time of year that I really enjoy. I guess. It’s fun to watch the Maple Leafs try to build a winning team.

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