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Leafs re-sign Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks to 2-year deals

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The backup spot is filled, but is it filled well?

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As first speculated by Bob McKenzie on his podcast, the Leafs have filled one of the holes on their roster by signing Curtis McElhinney to a 2 year contract.

McElhinney was a waiver pickup last season for Toronto, and performed well in a backup role here, including a relief appearance in the Leafs playoff-clinching game against the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

He appeared to be well-liked by the coaching staff and team, as a veteran backup who knows his role and won’t complain about Frederik Andersen getting the lion’s share of the starts. In that sense, it’s no real surprise to see him retained.

The major issue is that McElhinney doesn’t have a particularly distinguished NHL history. He’s a 34 year old goalie with a career .905 save percentage. He was a bit above league average last year, posting a .917 but given his career trajectory, it’s hard to see him doing that again.

As a result, the Leafs are still in a really rough spot if they have to rely on him for anything more than spot duty. If Andersen goes down, so do the Leafs’ playoff hopes. To be fair, most teams are in tough when they lose their starter. But there’s a decent amount of quality backups available on the market this year (and seemingly every year), and if the Leafs are just throwing up their hands and signing the guy they know, that’s a missed opportunity to strengthen a pretty important part of the roster.

The dollar figure for McElhinney is low, low enough to bury, which is nice. I’m not a fan of giving him two years. The Leafs are giving term to a relatively old and replacement level goalie. Not a place you want to be.

Along with this, the Leafs also re-signed Garret Sparks, who has been their #1 AHL goaltender for the better part of three seasons. At this point, it seems like he’d reprise that role, though in theory, it’s possible he could be called up for the backup role if McElhinney struggles. Sparks struggled in his first NHL stint in the 2015/2016 season, but he has good AHL numbers, and truthfully, he deserves another shot at the NHL at some point. We’ll see if it happens though, and how much faith the coaching staff has in McElhinney.

The Leafs cap space for next year is now at $6,909,166 (before LTIR is used) with Connor Brown and Zach Hyman still to sign.