The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves outside the playoffs, despite having one of their most talented rosters in a number of years. The young General Manager, Kyle Dubas, made it clear that he was more than willing to pay up for his extremely talented young core. However, in doing so, he has neglected the backup goalie position, and an injury to Freddy Andersen, has left Toronto fans eager for answers.
Michael Hutchinson is the current backup, but has not lived up to the big stage, allowing a couple of soft goals against the Florida Panthers in a monumental collapse against a divisional opponent. Kyle Dubas now has to decide what to do about the situation, assuming he does anything at all. The Leafs cannot realistically expect to pursue a big name goalie this late in the year, unless they are willing to part ways with the likes of a Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen, and potentially more. Alex Georgiev of the New York Ranges has been proposed by many, as a potential fix to this problem.
This young prospect has a lot of potential and has mediocre numbers as a 23 year old at the NHL level. He has played the backup role for a pretty weak Ranges team for two years now, and has a career .913 save %. The only concern for Leaf fans is the price, and of course, the inexperience factor. Georgiev has been playing a backup role behind veteran Henrik Lundqvist for two years now and has very little pressure as far as the media and his organisation. Everyone understands that he is a young goalie and needs time to develop. If he was moved to Toronto, I would not expect him to be ready for the pressure of filling in for Freddy Andersen, especially in a market which expects nothing but success this season.
On the other hand, there are some viable options in goal if Toronto wanted to pursue it. Two names that come to mind for me are Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson. Ryan Miller is a veteran who has played in over 700 games, spending three seasons with the Canucks. This is important because Canadian markets are definitely more difficult to play in, especially when the team is expected to perform at a high level. He comes with a modest 1.25 million dollar cap hit for this final year under contract. Myself, as well as many others, feel as if Miller is the most reliable goalie available who is within reach for the Leafs. He would probably only cost the team a 3rd round draft pick at most, whereas a younger goalie could cost the Leafs far more in picks, prospects, or even roster players.
The other option may be Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators. He is a very experienced goalie who likely wouldn't mind a change of scenery, as Ottawa is likely not making the playoffs for a number of years. Anderson is in his final year, but has a salary cap of 4.75, which of course would be cut by over 50% as it would be pro rated given the time left in this season. He is a strong candidate given his experience, most of which came in a Canadian market. He is 38 years old and likely isn't a top priority of the Senators moving forward. This should reduce his overall price tag and allow the Leafs to work out a fair deal if he is the player they pursue.
That being said, Georgiev's name still continues to float around as a trade possibility. The Leafs situation is not going unnoticed by the rest of the league; prices will increase as their situation becomes more dire and I don't think the Rangers will accept anything less than a pick + prospect, or a young roster player like a Kasperi Kapanen. Given the uncertainty of bringing in a young goaltender, the price does not seem to match the risk involved. A one year rental is far more affordable in my opinion, especially when you consider the fact that Toronto may not be able to afford Georgiev after his contract expires.
All in all, Kyle Dubas and the Leafs require stability at the goaltender position. Whether that be via trade or Michael Hutchinson, it is something that needs to be addressed quickly. At this stage, it appears as if the pressure is falling solely on Kyle Dubas. The Toronto market is unforgiving, and the young General Manager was perceived as caving into the pressure of his star players. He didn't save a cent on the Nylander, Matthews and Marner deals. In a perfect world, he could have saved a few million dollars to address the goal tending issue prior to the season starting. Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard were both placed on waivers at the beginning of the season, leaving Hutchinson with the backup job. Allowing these two goalies to walk may prove to be a mistake that will cost the Leafs in the upcoming weeks.