TORONTO — Wanted: a goaltender who can stop the puck on a nightly basis, steal games and take a young team deep into the playoffs.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, it is a familiar wish. But with Wednesday’s trade deadline looming, has it already been granted?
That was the question GM Dave Nonis was asked on Monday. Will the Leafs, who have the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference, continue to roll the dice with the inexperienced tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens? Or should they trade for Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff or Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo?
Do they even have to?
“It’s not a priority,” Nonis said when asked about the need to acquire a goalie. “It’s like any other position. If we can add a goalie that strengthens our group and helps the guys that are here, we would do it. And if not … as I’ve said all along, I think we have two NHL-calibre goalies. They’ve proved that so far this year. And goaltending hasn’t been an issue.
“So it’s no different than any other position. If we can improve our back end, we’ll do it. If we can get deeper down the middle, we’ll do it. Those are two areas that we’d like to explore. If not, it’s not like we’re not comfortable with the two players we have in net. They’ve done a very good job, both of them.”
Toronto is ranked 16th in the league with a 2.67 goals-against average but is eighth with a .918 save percentage. Reimer, who recorded a shutout in a 4-0 win against the Ottawa Senators Saturday, is 13-4-4 with a .920 save percentage. Scrivens is 7-8-0 with a .918 save percentage.
As a tandem, the two goalies have given the team everything it could ask for in terms of consistency. Where they are both lacking, however, is in experience.
Reimer is 25; Scrivens is 26. Combined they have played just 123 games, none in the playoffs.
The Leafs do not necessarily have to add a No. 1 goalie. They just need someone that the team can turn to in case Reimer struggles or gets injured.
“If you had someone there that had played a lot of playoff games, maybe some NHL playoff games and is a really good third, then you probably wouldn’t be in the market at all,” Nonis said. “But having someone there that could help in the event that you would need him just makes sense for us.”
It is not just in net that the team is looking to add a veteran presence. This is one of the youngest rosters in the league. And while the youngsters have been a big reason why the Leafs are where they are — 22-year-old Nazem Kadri is sixth in league scoring with 17 goals and 39 points — the team does not have a single player who has won a Stanley Cup and only one, James van Riemsdyk, who played in a final. Van Riemsdyk was a rookie in 2010 when Philadelphia lost to Chicago.
The need to add might be even stronger this year, because aside from the Pittsburgh Penguins, who got a head start on the trade frenzy by adding Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray last week, the rest of the Eastern Conference is up for grabs.
Adding a piece here or a piece there could make the difference in whether the Leafs are eliminated in the first round or go on a long run. Of course, by not doing anything, it could also give a young team the confidence to take that next step on its own.
“There’s always an urge to try and do something. There’s a want to do something,” Nonis said. “I think that’s natural for people to want to add or change. But you’re better to take a long walk around the block before you make a big move, if it’s going to suck some of the future out of your team.
“Some of our better players this year over stretches have been our younger players. We’ve given them an opportunity to succeed and, by and large, they’ve stepped up and done it.”
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