Hearing from a few sources that the Maple Leafs have quietly been shopping Garret Sparks. The backup goalie, 25, has one year left on his deal paying him $750k.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 14, 2019
While this isn’t really much of a surprise — the minute the Leafs actually sent him off to find himself, it seemed like the writing was on the wall — the timing is a bit unusual.
Updated with video: Garret Sparks is going off to find his game
However, if ever there was a selling low situation, this is it, so maybe looking to move him now and not training camp is actually better. Looking beyond his terrible NHL performance, Sparks has a couple of things in his favour. He’s an excellent AHL goalie who will likely clear waivers this season unless there’s a truly desperate team out there. He’s also got NHL experience, and is nice and cheap. That sounds exactly like what the Leafs need, come to think of it.
So let’s say that Dubas adds to his massive collection of seventh-round draft picks, and finds a farm where Sparks can go run loose in the sunshine, what then? The Leafs are not short on goalie prospects, they’re just short on proven ones. The list right now goes like this:
Scott is 20, and has a January birthdate, so he is still junior eligible. He’s in the second year of his ELC, and just won CHL goaltender of the year honours. His Memorial Cup wasn’t stellar, and he was definitely the number two on Team Canada at the WJC, but he doesn’t seem like he has much left to prove in junior.
He looks like he’s ready to go pro, but that means a season on the Marlies, not a job in the NHL before he’s 21.
Woll is also 20, but will turn 21 in a few weeks. He is also entering the second year of his ELC since the Leafs signed him right out of college this spring, but he didn’t actually play anywhere yet. His final season with Boston College was fine, but not exceptional, and he’s further away from his not very successful stint in the WJC as the USA’s number two man than Scott is. Woll is also ready to go pro, and that definitely means a year on the Marlies and not a job in the NHL.
Kaskisuo is four months younger than Sparks, and has been in the Maple Leafs system since he was signed as a free agent out of the NCAA in 2013. He’s under contract for the coming season at a nice and cheap amount, less even than Sparks makes. He is also on a two-way deal, still, and would easily clear waivers. He has been a modestly okay starter/backup in the AHL until this past season, where he went on a super hot run for part of the playoffs. That heat cooled off in the Conference Finals, and the Marlies were easily ousted by the Charlotte Checkers.
Kaskisuo was on the NHL roster for a few days, but never played. He has only 66 AHL games played over four seasons, and 28 of those came while on loan to the Chicago Wolves last year, who did not use him in the playoffs.
There is nothing in Kaskisuo’s career that says he’s anything but a maybe as an AHL starter, but more likely a backup. If the Leafs want to hold him in reserve behind a tandem of Woll and Scott, that’s likely wise.
McAdam was given an ELC by the Islanders before they traded him for Matt Martin. He played half his season on the Marlies and half on the Growlers, but when he was in Toronto, the Growlers started relying on ECHL-signing Michael Garteig.
Garteig’s contract was upgraded to an AHL deal mid-season, and he led the Growlers to their Kelly Cup victory. He turns 28 this year, and is a very good ECHL goalie who could play in the AHL, but might not have the same success. McAdam couldn’t take the ECHL crease away from him.
McAdam is an unsigned RFA with arbitration rights, and it won’t be a shock if the Leafs just don’t qualify him. He’s turning 25 this year, so that makes him nearly a contemporary of Kaskisuo and Sparks, and his NHL chances seem extremely dim. He could be re-signed on a two-way deal and play that role of AHL/ECHL tweener again, but then we should consider that Zachary Bouthillier is around too, albeit unsigned, and he might be ready for an ECHL job.
Hutchinson, acquired by the Leafs in trade mid-season, is an un-signed UFA, and he could be the easiest answer to who should be the Leafs backup. His $1.3 million salary last season was his highest ever, and was likely an overpay, so he might be had for something near the bargain-basement dollars the Leafs can afford to spend.
If none of that list pans out, the Leafs can simply go shopping on the UFA market. There’s a lot of choices out there, even two former starters named Cam, but the trick is finding that sweet spot of cheap and yet good. Or at least not below replacement level, like Sparks.
Curtis McElhinney is a UFA, by the way, and so is Calvin Pickard.
A trade is possible, and a quick scan of the most recent season’s crop of backups better than Sparks, and you get the following:
- Laurent Brossoit, who the Jets should consider a prospect
- Cal Petersen, ditto for the Kings
- Jack Campbell, maybe the Kings starter
- Curtis McElhinney (him again)
- Juuse Saros, who the Predators will never let loose
- David Rittich, who is the future in Calgary
- Anton Khudobin, who is one of the best in the business, and is under contract to Dallas again
- Brian Elliott (really, the bad Flyers defence made him look bad, but he wasn’t), who is also a UFA
- Ryan Miller, who is likely retiring
- a few others who were in the replacement level range, but better than Sparks, but who aren’t worth considering
- Calvin Pickard, who was worse than Sparks this year/
The other option is to look around Europe for likely prospects, but that’s very hard to do successfully (remember Jhonas Enroth?), so it’s looking like Hutchinson is the best plan if he’ll take a good deal.
The Leafs spent their 2020 fifth-round pick for Hutchinson, do you think they can get a fifth back for Sparks?
What could the Leafs get back for Sparks?
|At least a second-rounder, he’s a Calder Cup winner||69|
|An AHL player at best||345|