Yeah, it’s August. It’s so much August that I almost started writing about an Eklund rumour. That still may happen, but you’re at least safe for now.
Anyway, the one thing that is out there, is that Calvin Pickard, the guy who was 4th on the Leafs goaltending depth chart last season, is supposedly on the trading block. Shocking, I know, but that’s what is out there.
For the sake of not wanting to be a broken record about this, I will skip past the part where I say that I think that Pickard is a better backup option than Sparks (based on Pickard being more talented) and better than McElihenny (based on talent, and Pickard being able to handle a bigger workload) and acknowledge that Pickard is the easiest one of those goaltenders for the organization to move on from, and to see what they can get for him.
The biggest question has to be, in the middle of August, who is in the market for a backup goaltender and what if anything of value would they offer up for Pickard?
There are a few options, and the first one is the…
Jon Gillies has been the goaltender of the future for a while in Calgary, and signs so far have been pointing to him finally getting his chance on the Flames roster this season. Right now it looks like that will happen because no other reasonable NHL option exists in the organization.
That’s where Pickard comes in. If the Flames feel they want to take advantage of Gillies waiver exemption to over-ripen him in the AHL for another year, the Flames would be a very reasonable landing spot for Pickard, who provides a nice safety net for the next Mike Smith injury.
If we consider there is a modest increase in the value of Pickard over the 6th round pick and Tobias Lindberg price the Leafs paid, the Leafs are either going to grasping at an AHL upside prospect, or try to salvage someone who is struggling in the NHL. Personally, I’d like to believe that a Pickard for Lazar deal is possible, and would love to see if Babcock can turn Lazar into a passable bottom six regular.
The team with the Mrazek and Darling tandem needs another goaltending question mark to push them. Pickard is the same age as Mrazek and his recent NHL history is just as good as Mrazek, which isn’t saying a whole lot. The year that Pickard put in with the Marlies to rebuild his game might mean he comes back with more confidence, but maybe 3 backup goalies fighting for a starting job doesn’t help as much as I think it does. I am reasonably confident that Scott Darling would clear waivers if the Canes wanted to run a Pickard/Mrazek tandem though.
As far as who the Leafs could trade for, the most appealing option might be Scott Darling. For this season (at least) the Leafs have the cap space to take on a bad contract. Getting a higher return for Pickard by taking a salary dump should have some appeal, as would seeing if they can rehabilitate Darling on the Marlies before seeing if they can trade or need to buy him out next summer.
Please remember that it is August, and I’m trying to make trading a 4th string goaltender an interesting discussion. There will be hot takes.
New York Islanders
All of the same reasons for Carolina, apply to Lehner/Greiss tandem as well. Lehner/Greiss might be marginally better goalies than Darling/Mrazek, but for the Leafs, taking on Greiss is a lot more of a reasonable ask than Darling, and there is also the fact that Lamoriello would be very familiar with Calvin Pickard.
If I spend the rest of time until training camp day dreaming about a Greiss and Ho-Sang for Pickard trade, I’d be happy camper. I’ll lose all my Islanders fan friends in the process, but I would very much like Ho-Sang to be a Leaf.
Back on Planet Earth we can acknowledge that its usually contending teams that make sure they’ve got a passable backup goaltender to fall back on if their starter goes down and lottery teams shouldn’t give assets for risky goaltenders.
To that point, Casey DeSmith isn’t particularly good, Tristan Jarry isn’t ready, and Matt Murray does get hurt from time to time. Calvin Pickard would be a good fit here, and this would provide the Leafs an opportunity to reacquire Tobias Lindberg and a 6th and completely undo the original trade. Or they could try to do a bit better than that.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve watched a lot of Laurent Brossoit that I think that he’s bad. I did watch him in Edmonton, and the Oilers can make anyone look bad, but it seems like a Plan B for if Brossoit can’t handle being Hellebucyk’s backup wouldn’t be a bad idea and history has shown that Brossoit has very little trouble clearing waivers.
The Jets also have one of the better farm systems to pluck middle of the road prospects from, and maybe that longshot prospect here might pan out (spoiler: they probably still won’t), but since you are going to trade Pickard anyway, why not send him to his hometown?
[remembers that I’m from Winnipeg and don’t like returning.]
On second thought, maybe the Leafs should trade Pickard to Capitals instead of the Jets.
Pickard is a depth goaltender and if it wasn’t August 20th this wouldn’t even be something we’d acknowledge was going on until it happened. One or two of Pickard, Sparks, and McElhinney won’t be with the Leafs organization on opening night, so we are guaranteed one roster transaction over the next month and a half, which is nice. Even if the Leafs can’t trade Pickard, they’ll potentially get a solid Marlies goaltender out of it, or if he’s claimed off of waivers, they get back another contract space that will give them freedom throughout the year. And if he’s not claimed on waivers, Pickard may command a slightly better asking price after the major goaltending injury of the season or after the first goaltending gamble around the league doesn’t pay off.