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Toskala still unsigned and other goalie tidbits Add to ...

I spent a chunk of this weekend in London at the Leafs rookies camp, and for the most part focussed on the goaltending situation in order to write today's piece on Francois Allaire.

One of the interesting tidbits I learned was that former Leafs netminder Vesa Toskala had a contract offer earlier this summer to play in the NHL from the Flames, but turned it down because he wanted to still be a No. 1 netminder. Calgary has Miikka Kiprusoff, making that all but impossible there.

According to my source, the offer was for north of $1-million, which would have been a good deal for Toskala given he was coming off of two poor years in Toronto. He also apparently had interest from a Swedish team, but his asking price was too high.

As of now, Toskala still has yet to sign, although his agent said today he has "options available to him in Europe."

On the Leafs goaltending front, after talking to Allaire and Burke on this, the organizational depth chart currently looks like so:

1. Leafs - Jean-Sebastien Giguere 2. Leafs - Jonas Gustavsson 3. AHL - James Reimer 4. AHL - Jussi Rynnas 5. ECHL - Ben Scrivens 6. ECHL - Andrew Engelage

Burke said Sunday that one of Reimer, Rynnas or Scrivens was headed to the Reading Royals of the ECHL given the number of bodies, with former Cornell star Scrivens the likely candidate unless he really out plays the others in camp. (He did quite well in Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Penguins rookies.)

"For sure one of them is going to play in the ECHL, probably Scrivens," Burke said. "He knows that. But there's only one Francois Allaire. And he gets to work with him."

All six goaltenders will be at the Leafs main camp when it opens on Friday. Burke's very high on his No. 3 to 5 depth now, saying "it's vastly improved" over where it was a year ago.

He also had some nice things to say on Rynnas, who he always calls "The Bus," that didn't make it into my story.

"His technique is sound ... He's a big man," Burke said. "We're really happy with his game. That's what Francois said when we signed him: He said the kid's got potential to be an NHL goaltender.

"If this works, if we're right and The Bus turns into an NHL goaltender, I've got to punch a hole into the lineup for him. I told Jonas Hiller when he signed (in Anaheim), I said 'You come with us.' He said 'Well you've got Giguere and Bryzgalov.' I said 'Kid you come with us, and I will punch a hole in the lineup if you earn it. You've got to play well enough that we're comfortable you can play in the NHL.' And that's exactly what we did. I put Bryzgalov on waivers and we called him up."

Burke said he plans on goal being a major strength in Toronto, which would be a radical change given it's been the organization's weak point since before the lockout (when the Leafs last made the playoffs).

"In Vancouver, I never solved the goalie problem," Burke said. "And it's not because the goalie I had wasn't worthy. Dan Cloutier was a legitimate starting NHL goaltender, but he got hurt every year. I said when I left there, I'll never get caught short at that position again. And I wasn't in Anaheim and I'm not going to be here."

Some may wonder what's the big deal with the No. 3 and beyond goaltenders in the organization, but often NHL teams need and use that depth at that position. Only 11 teams used just two netminders last year, and depending on injuries, the No. 3 or 4 goaltenders could play at the top level a lot. Rynnas or Reimer will very likely get NHL minutes this year.

And given Giguere's only under contract one more year, the Leafs could also be looking at bumping all of their young goalies up a slot if Gustavsson proves he's ready to be a No. 1 this coming season.

 

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