They have been through trade deadlines before, but nothing ever like this.
And Toronto Maple Leafs netminders James Reimer, 25, and Ben Scrivens, 26, are right in the middle of the firestorm this time around, trying their best to wait it out.
With the news that GM Dave Nonis has been speaking with both Calgary Flames veteran Miikka Kiprusoff and his agent, Larry Kelly, in recent days, the focus at practice on Tuesday was almost entirely on the Leafs young goalies, both of whom have played well this season.
Reimer’s .920 save percentage is among the best in the league among regular starters, and Scrivens’s .918 isn’t all that far behind, numbers that have played a huge role in guiding the Leafs to a likely playoff berth.
Kiprusoff, meanwhile, is way down in the basement at a.868, part of a lost season for the Flames that continued in an ugly loss on Monday that saw the 36-year-old goalie pulled early on.
Despite that, the Leafs organization clearly wants to add more experience in advance of the playoffs, and Reimer and Scrivens can’t help but try and ignore the resulting talk until 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon when the dust finally settles.
“It’s an exciting time for anyone who’s a hockey fan, right?” Reimer said, adding that the team’s four-day break right now comes at a good time. “Honestly, it is a distraction. I mean it’s a huge distraction. To not be playing is almost a benefit. It’s not like it would ruin your play, but it is a distraction. So it’s just one more thing you have to keep off your mind.
“It’s not something I can control. Especially now. I’ve done what I can do… so there’s nothing you can worry about. Obviously they’re both world-class goaltenders. If they came, then it would be an honour to play with them and learn from them.”
“Both” in this case being Kiprusoff and the Vancouver Canucks’ Roberto Luongo, who has been rumoured as going to Toronto for closing in on a year now.
Negotiations between Toronto and Vancouver, however, haven’t gone well, with Canucks GM Mike Gillis originally asking for the moon at the draft last summer and recent conversations not progressing far.
That’s led to Nonis looking at other avenues, with Kiprusoff being the latest target.
There are multiple concerns with the Flames vet, with the foremost the fact that his play has fallen off of late. As several recent studies have shown, goaltenders tend to decline in their mid- to late-30s, with those who are successful like Tim Thomas and Martin Brodeur generally the exception, not the rule.
Beyond that, there’s the complications his contract brings, as Kiprusoff’s $5.83-million cap hit could create issues for the Leafs next season.
Even if he is only added for the stretch run and playoffs, there’s the question of what becomes of Scrivens, an undrafted star with Cornell who has excelled in the minors and shown promise at times with the Leafs.
The Leafs could potentially keep three goaltenders the rest of the way but wouldn’t want to do so beyond that, and the Flames could want a young goalie that can play in return for any deal for Kiprusoff (in addition to other assets).
“Whatever decision they make, they’re going to make in order to make the team better,” Scrivens said matter-of-factly on Tuesday. “I am human, that is something I have going for me, but I mean, what can you do? It’s entirely out of my control so there’s really no point in wasting any time or energy on it.
“Might as well be happy and work hard on the ice and try and get better every day. If it does happen, we’ll deal with it when it happens.”
As an insurance policy in case they don’t add another veteran, meanwhile, Nonis signed Marlies goalie Drew MacIntyre to an NHL deal and placed him on waivers.
MacIntyre has been excellent in the AHL, posting a .931 save percentage in 16 games, and had to clear before the deadline in order to play for the Leafs later in the season.