Frank Seravalli at Daily Faceoff has some intel on who the Leafs want to add in net. He’s got a long list, and rightly notes that the Maple Leafs have a lot of options, but his list starts with Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper, currently with the rebuilding Coyotes, has one year remaining on a contract that costs $4.5 million in AAV. For the Leafs, that’s a big ticket, considering they seem to need to economize in goal in order to find two top-six wingers and some peripheral players.
However, the goaltending decision is their most important one, I believe. Jack Campbell, who had very good results in an injury-interrupted season, is not going to be relied on to be the undisputed number one starter playing most of the 82-game regular season. Campbell’s 22 games this season were his second biggest number of games played ever. He played in 31 in 2018-2019. Since his 2016-2017 season, where he played in 52 games in the AHL, he has not been supplementing his NHL starts with much in the minor leagues. He’s just rarely played.
The Maple Leafs would be very wise to be ready with an alternative if his results or his health falter. But legitimate alternatives, not players that you hope might be good, are expensive, and this is the Maple Leafs’ biggest conundrum. Last year, the Leafs paid $6.65 million for Campbell and Andersen, and added some depth insurance with Michael Hutchinson and David Rittich.
This year, Campbell is owed another $1.65 million before he expires as a UFA. Kuemper would mean no meaningful savings in that position, and at best might mean no need for an acquisition like the Rittich trade.
However, Campbell was merely good in the seven-game playoff series vs Montréal, adding some value, but not stealing any games. The Leafs have to be able to win with that kind of goaltending, because they can’t afford a star, but they also have to make sure they aren’t suddenly without it, as happened last year when injuries piled up. A goalie whose good performances fall in Campbell’s range, can have periods of play that are below what the Leafs need. They have to have alternatives right at hand.
Seravalli reports that the Maple Leafs, the Avalanche and the Kraken are vying for Kuemper, and they each have different timing needs for a deal:
It is possible that a deal for Kuemper materializes in short order, perhaps so that Arizona could move to protect Adin Hill in the upcoming Expansion Draft. The Avalanche, for one, do not have protection issues in net. But in an ideal scenario for Toronto, any transaction with Arizona would occur after the Expansion Draft, so Jack Campbell could be protected to play in tandem with Kuemper next season. Another option, of course, is that the Kraken make a deal with Arizona to make Kuemper available for selection.
Kuemper has had workloads in the range of a tandem partner, not a fulltime starter, in his recent seasons. He also had injuries last year, and of course, was at the World Championships, not in the playoffs.
Seravalli lists the other expected options of interest to Toronto (and presumably Colorado):
- Linus Ullmark
- Petr Mrazek
- Chris Driedger
- Jaroslav Halak
He also suggest Joonas Korpisalo as a trade target, as well as the implausible option of Marc-André Fleury, who has a $7 million cap hit. He also details the expensive ask from the Rangers for Alexandar Georgiev, making that acquisition seem very unlikely.
I know who I like best on this list, and it’s not the slightly overpaid Kuemper, but who do you want to see the Leafs acquire?