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It’s been a wild ride watching James Reimer stopping lots of pucks and winning lots of (ok, two) games lately, but this run of good play probably hasn’t changed the minds of many who believe that neither Reimer or Bernier are the answer in net.
Earlier this week, TLN’s Ryan Fancey discussed comments from Elliotte Friedman regarding Toronto’s lack of a long-term plan in the crease and named three goaltenders – John Gibson, Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevsky – who could potentially provide the Leafs with solid goaltending now and for the next several years.
Gibson and Vasilevsky are both very young and relatively inexperienced at the NHL level but are widely regarded as two of the top up-and-comers at their position. There’s a risk in paying for their services based on smaller track records, but if Toronto hit on either of them they could stabilize their goaltending situation for a decade. Ben Bishop, at 28 years old, is a different case. He’s older than both Bernier and Reimer, but the Lightning will have to choose between him and Vasilevsky at some point in the near future and either way that could benefit the Leafs. Bishop would be an upgrade on either of Toronto’s current netminders and still has a few more years of high-level hockey left in him. He’s not the ideal candidate but he might be available, and that definitely counts for something.
Today, though, we’re hearing something a little different from TSN’s Darren Dreger, who theorized that Toronto and Boston may make for good trading partners. The Bruins are deep at the goaltending position, with Tuukka Rask able to hold down the top job for many years to come and a couple quality youngsters behind him. Specifically, this little nugget refers to 21-year old Malcolm Subban…
Teams reach out to the Boston Bruins from time to time to check in on the availability of goaltender Malcolm Subban. With Tuukka Rask signed long-term and the addition of Zane McIntyre to the Bruins family in Providence, there is reason to believe a rebuilding team like Toronto or Arizona would have interest in Subban.
Subban is certainly an interesting option in that he’s young and promising like Gibson or Vasilievsky, but he doesn’t have as much raw talent as either. Subban is also less experienced at the NHL level which means there’s greater risk, but that could also make for a lower acquisition cost. Last season, Subban appeared in 35 games for the AHL Providence Bruins, posting a 16-13-4 record with a .921 SV% and a 2.44 GAA.
If we stop thinking about Subban specifically for a moment and think about the concept of bringing in a similarly talented and young goaltender, it’s not a half-bad idea. Behind Bernier and Reimer, Toronto only has Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau in the crease – both have looked good so far in their young pro careers, but neither are expected to develop into front-of-the-line netminders. That, of course, isn’t to say they couldn’t become stars, but I wouldn’t put a lot of money on it.
There are actually a number of strong and potentially-available goaltending prospects beyond Subban, too. The Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues come to mind, as they’re both flush with young goaltenders and are both competitive teams that may entertain dealing from a position of organizational strength to bolster their NHL squad.
And for the never-draft-a-goalie crowd, trading for an established prospect may feel like a more reasonable option. It’s not easy to project goaltenders, but it’s certainly easier to guess on a 22-year old with a couple successful AHL campaigns under his belt than a 17-year old that just finished unpacking his stuff at his new billets’ house. When Toronto begins to dismantle its current group ahead of the trade deadline, it might make sense to ask for goaltenders in return instead of your usual mid-round draft selection. There’s no such thing as too much talent in the pipeline, but the Leafs have several strong prospects up front and on the blueline. It may be about time they prioritized goaltending.