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Jeff Finger returns to the line-up tonight in Detroit in what many will suggest is his Maple Leafs swan song/final pit stop en route to the Marlies. Burke is saying the right things about Finger’s right to a “fair look” and the importance of respecting players acquired via free agency as it relates to organizational reputation. But the realities are this: the Leafs are sitting with both Brett Lebda and Finger on the outside of their top six, over the cap by around $300k and uncomfortably close even with Lashoff and his $550k assigned to the Marlies. And that’s assuming Nazem Kadri and his $1.7 million cap hit will not be a part of the roster come opening night. If it’s important to show respect to signed free agents, surely Lebda won’t be Marlie-bound after his first training camp as a Leaf. Simply, something has to give, and the $3.5 million Finger, a Leaf of two seasons now, seems the obvious candidate for demotion.
In part two of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth looks at the Leafs goaltending of the past, and whether this year’s tandem can provide them with healthy, consistent efforts.
The NHL goaltender.
It has been said that there is no more important position in all of pro sports. Â And if you believe that, it’s quite easy to see why the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t had much regular season success in the post lockout NHL, and why the post season has eluded them.
Leafs Preseason Synopsis Part 1Â – Defense and Goaltending
By: Michael Cuttell
With free agency cooling off and countless free-agent and team roster questions floating around, itâ€™s time for Leafs fans to look at what they have, what they can afford to lose , what they need, and what they can realistically get to fill those needs. This is a step by step speculative analysis of those questions.
The year was 2005. Â George W. Bush was still in office (yes, somehow Americans voted for him, twice), Hurricane Katrina was doing catastrophic damage to New Orleans, and the vatican was naming a new pope after the passing of John Paul II.
In the sports world, the New England Patrios would win yet another Super Bowl, this time against the Eagles, the Washington Nationals would begin operation as Major League Baseball’s newest team, Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap at the Indy 500, and the Chicago White Sox ended a lengthy championship drought, winning the world series in four straight over the Houston Astros.
Oh, and there was this one other thing too. Â NO HOCKEY.
Embattled in a bitter labour dispute, the NHL shut down operations for an entire year in search of cost certainty, something they would eventually get, although the opinion on whether the design is flawed or not is still out to be deliberated.
For fans of the NHL, the June 2005 entry draft was more than just a weekend in June in which young players would be drafted, making their way into the beginning of their National Hockey League careers. Â It was a new beginning for the world of the NHL. Â A new season was about to kick off in earnest.
The news that the Tampa Bay Lightning have Dave Nonis at the top of their shortlist for general manager candidates was perhaps an instance of the inevitable. If Tampa or Nonis deem it not a right fit, we can only expect more of the same from other owners looking to fill vacant general manager positions.
It was reported at the time of Nonis’ signing that a one-year clause was included to assure Nonis’ services belonged to the Leafs for 2009-10 at a minimum. When Nonis’ contractual obligation ends is unclear, but from Joe Nieuwendyk to Steffan Kronwall to Justin Pogge, it’s clear Burke will never step in the way of an employee’s desire to advance professionally.
But not all hope is lost. First, let’s look at what the Leafs have in Nonis, and hopefully what they don’t end up losing.
Is it just me, or has the hockey season passed us by far quicker than usual? It seems like I just finished making arrangements for the home opener against Hamilton (which, might I add was a win) and here I am already looking back at the season that was.
It was an absolute blur of call-ups and injuries. The bright young stars that comprised the frat-pack line (Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson and Viktor Stalberg) all found their way up to the Leafs. Carl Gunnarsson, the player I was most keen on going into the season, left the Marlies early on for the big club and never looked back.
The Torontosaurus Rex for Week 21 is ….
TORONTO — Leafs general manager, Brian Burke, has repeatedly stated he will not ask Tomas Kaberle to waive his NTC. This situation, however, could be key to shoring up the goaltending the Leafs need.
- The Globe and Mail explains that thanks to an impressive win over the Capitals, the Leafs’ veterans have bought themselves some more time, and no immediate restructuring with Marlies players will be made. Yeesh.
- The Toronto Sun reviews a possible Brent Sopel to Toronto swap, stating that the $500K cleared in the waiving of Andrew Ebbett likely stalled trade talks over the weekend as Chicago seemed to gain a bit more leverage.
- The Marlies came away with a 3-2 shootout win over the Monsters yesterday afternoon, and it was in big part due to the play of first star James Reimer, who turned away 30 shots, including an overtime breakaway and four shootout attempts. Don’t look now but Reimer is quickly doing his best to help us forget Justin Pogge, as the 21 year old boasts a 5-1-1 record with a 2.10 GAA and .928 SV%.
- Lastly, I’ve still got a pair of last minute purples to tonight’s game against the Islanders that I’m looking to move at cost. Drop me an email if you’re interested. Update: Tickets have been sold, thanks for your interest.
To date, it has been a rather busy offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs, with a number of free agent signings, roster re-signings, a few trades and even some coaching changes.
The following is a chronological listing of Maple Leafs’ transactions during the 2009 offseason.
Note: this list will continue to be updated with any further transactions made prior to the start of the 2009-10 regular season.
Via Darren Dreger of TSN, goaltender Justin Pogge has been traded to the Anaheim Ducks. The deal is expected to be completed on Monday, with Toronto receiving a conditional late round pick that can improve based on Pogge’s play.
The Maple Leafs have also signed free agent goaltender Joey Macdonald to provide some depth on the Marlies. The 29 year old Macdonald played 49 games for the New York Islanders last season, posting a 3.37 GAA and .901 SV%.
Hitting the links bright and early on a Thursday morning: Jim Balsillie and the city of Hamilton get new life, Kadri’s WJC tryout experience, an update on the Justin Pogge situation, Leafs sign a young defenseman, a mid-summer recap of the offseason festivities, and the Marlies coaching staff announced.
After a short hiatus, Brian Burke has gotten right back on the horse. RDS and TSN are reporting that the Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired checking forward Wayne Primeau and a 2nd round pick in 2011 from the Calgary Flames in exchange for defenseman Anton Stralman, forward Colin Stuart, and a 7th round pick in 2012. Primeau was limited to just 4 assists in 24 regular season games for Calgary last season due to a broken foot. The 33 year old carries 1 year left on his contract at a value of $1.4 million. Anton Stralman recorded 16 points in 36 AHL games and was named to the league’s all-star team last season.
A variety of discussion points to kick off the weekend including the imminent departure of Justin Pogge and the Marlies goaltending situation going into next season. Is it finally James Reimer’s time to shine? Also, a quick look at the latest flurry of moves made by the Boston Bruins, and how that may affect a potential Leaf trade for the still unsigned Phil Kessel.
The Leafs (former?) goalie of the future is officially back for another year with the club.Â With the signing of Jonas Gustavsson, media and fans alike decreed Pogge’s chance to charge in and become the Leafs saviour had all but run out.Â Of course, it’s far too early to completely give up on a tender with Justin’s potential, and Brian Burke earlier stated his intentions to qualify the 23 year old without any hesitation.
An article in the London Free Press explains that the reasons for the earlier 7pm ET start times for home games this season: to cater to a younger audience and to allow for more efficient getaways in the case of a road game the following night. A slew of other small headlines including contract details for Komisarek, the Grabovski-Kostitsyn feud, and Justin Pogge.
A month into the offseason, one thing can be said for sure about the steps the Toronto Maple Leafs have taken toward rebuilding the team:Â credit Brian Burke with having a plan, and sticking to it.
The beginnings of that plan are clearly reflected in the sweeping changes to the goaltending and defence corps this summer, as well as a noticeable infusion of truculence.
While he would never admit it, Ontario native Nazem Kadri must of felt a twinge of anger at how the biggest day in his life panned out. Treated like a high steak pawn at the 2009 draft where the dreams he worked so hard to achieve were to be realized, Kadri watched as a bitter Brian Burke failed to secure the vaunted trade northwards, then faced the ignominy of TSN analyst Darren Dreger questioning Burke about Brayden Schenn as he sat in silence, festooned in his Maple Leafs jersey. For sure it must have been disappointing and one can only hope he didnâ€™t venture toward any Leafs related websites that night.
Sportsnet is reporting that the Maple Leafs have extended a qualifying offer to goaltender Justin Pogge, thus making him a restricted free agent. The team now has the ability to match any offer sheet Pogge receives, or choose to decline to get draft picks as compensation.
Today’s 5pm qualiying deadline saw a few interesting young players hit the UFA market: D Steve Eminger, LW Dan Fristche, C Marcel Goc, RW Anthony Stewart. Eminger has a boatload of talent, while the three other names may make for intriguing bottom six forward possibilities.
Also of note, veterans LW Peter Schaefer and D Jay Mckee have been placed on waivers by their respective clubs with the anticipation that they will be bought out. Mckee, one of the league’s perennial top shot blockers, may be a good fit as a veteran leader in the locker room and steadying presence on the blueline should Kaberle and/or Kubina be shipped out during the offseason.
Even in the days of modern technology, many still profess that meteorology is an inexact science more guess work than theory. The very same can be said when scouting goaltenders. For every Mark-Andre Fleury (selected 1st overall in 2003) thereâ€™s a Brent Krahn (selected 9th overall in 2000). Meanwhile recent Vezina nominees and winners such as Tim Thomas, Mikka Kiprusoff and Evgeni Nabokov had to wait until the 217th, 116th and 219th selections respectively to see their names on the board. Indeed, the vast majority of netminders who started a game last season in the NHL had long waits deep into the second day to see their dreams realized while others went completely unnoticed only to resurface as free agents years later.
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