With the banishing of Garret Sparks to the Golden Knights (really the Chicago Wolves), the Toronto Maple Leafs have to decide on a new backup goalie for Frederik Andersen this season. Hopefully one who plays closer to 30 games than the bare minimum.
The Leafs have four goalies signed to NHL contracts who could be the back up. This is how I break them down.
The goalies who won’t be the back up
Kasimir Kaskisuo - Kaskisuo isn’t NHL calibre, so we can pencil him into the Marlies roster right off the bat. Kaskisuo was fine for the Toronto Marlies last season, but put up worse numbers than the previous season he spent on loan to the Chicago Wolves. A 3.07GAA and a .896sv% won’t win him any favours with management when it comes to picking a back up — though he was the starting goalie in the playoffs over Hutchinson, that may not have been based on skill as Hardev wonders in the below link.
Joseph Woll - Woll left college to sign with the Leafs in the spring and he didn’t do that with the expectation of playing in Newfoundland. Woll will be the Marlies 1B to whomever is named Marlies starter out of AHL camp. Being a goalie is like being in med school. Learn by doing.
Ian Scott - Scott has the biggest decision to make (if he even gets a choice) this pre-season. Does he want to play third stringer in Toronto, start in Newfoundland, or go back to the WHL where he’ll be traded after Christmas to the highest bidder?
In Newfoundland he’ll be able to get a large amount of starts; in 2014-15 Sparks played in 36 Solar Bears games as well as two Marlies games. Kaskisuo played 32 games for the Solar Bears in his first season with the Leafs. The ECHL will give Scott the time in net he’d want at a professional level.
In Prince Albert he’ll be the #1 starter to begin the season and keep that role where ever he may end up — an overage goalie with his record would for sure get traded to recoup lost assets from their Memorial Cup run. Going back to junior would see him play in 50 or so games, but against much weaker competition.
Just one point though, the Leafs didn’t send Sparks back to the Guelph Storm for his overage year in 2013-14, they had him split 30 games between the Marlies and Solar Bears.
What about Bouthillier?
2018 draft pick Zachary Bouthillier isn't signed to an NHL contract yet. The Leafs will have to make a decision on him by the end of this season or lose his rights. However he’s getting a chance to escape the awful QMJHL teams he’s played for and will be playing for a spot on the Newfoundland Growlers next season. He was listed on the Saint John Sea Dogs pre-season roster but he’ll be off the Leafs camp this week.
This can also throw a wrench in the ‘send Scott east’ decision. Would they want two rookies in net?
So, who is in the running?
This leaves us with one more signed goalie in Michael Hutchinson.
Hutchinson joined the Leafs last season at the end of December when Frederik Andersen was injured, and all he cost was a 2020 fifth round pick!
Hutchinson played just five games for the Maple Leafs while posting good numbers for a back up - 2.64GAA / .914sv% - and made it into 23 Marlies games with numbers that reflected the quality of the team in front of him. With the other goalies behind him on the depth chart, the back-up position should be a lock for him.
The Leafs have brought in Michal Neuvirth on a professional tryout contract for training camp.
Neuvirth was in a platoon situation for two seasons with the Capitals, playing 48 games in 2010-11 and 38 in 11-12, but quickly settled into a backup role for the Capitals, Sabres, Islanders, and Flyers. Last year he played only seven NHL games for the Flyers, and just one AHL game for the Phantoms. This was due to a multitude of injuries suffered over the season, starting with recovery of off-season hip surgery and a lower body injury that shut him down in early January.
All of these reasons are good enough to not worry about Neuvirth taking the backup job away from Hutchinson, so why is he here?
There’s always the professional courtesy of allowing a player to rehab their image and show off to other teams while you’re on a PTO at training camp. Former Flyers coach Dave Hakstol is on the Leafs coaching staff so there’s a connection.
The Leafs could also be looking at avoiding another waivers catastrophe like last year, which saw them lose both Calvin Pickard and Curtis McElhinney to the Flyers and Hurricanes leaving them with no options except for a trade when Andersen went down.
So, who’s it going to be?
Barring Kaskisuo becoming a host of the spirit of Johnny Bower, it will come down to Neuvirth or Hutchinson to man the defense door on the bench next season. My plan would be to keep Neuvirth around doing informal workouts with the team ala Brandon Prust until Hutchinson solidifies his position or Neuvirth gets a contract offer he likes.
After that I’d tandem Kaskisuo and Woll on the Marlies and send Scott back to Junior; oh shocking the junior hockey guy sends him back! Well, until the Growlers figure out where they’re playing this season it’s probably best not to release players into the Newfoundland wilderness. There are mooses out there.
Where would you put Ian Scott?
This poll is closed
Pack the Marlies full!
Time to take some moose riding lessons
To Prince Albert, or Kamloops, or wherever he ends up