Before the upcoming draft, I wanted to pose the most predictable question possible for those who check in on VLM every once in a while: with the first overall pick in the entry draft, would you suggest the Leafs take Matthews or Laine? Or, alternatively, would you actually look to move the pick if the Leafs could acquire an attractive combination of players—proven veterans with playoff pedigree and young players with immense potential?
That question still stands for the purposes of friendly discussion here, but the news that the Leafs have made a move to try and shore up their netminding prospects has caused me to do a bit of a positive double-take.
One thing we know: the Leafs have accumulated plenty of draft picks over the past couple of years. That has been a key element of Shanahan’s plan, clearly. Acquiring so many “futures” provides a lot of flexibility and valuable options for an organization in the midst of a major reconstruction.
So by dealing away a very late first-round pick and one of the many second-round selections they have garnered over the last year and a bit, they have been able to bring in a pretty accomplished goaltender in Frederik Andersen from Anaheim. Andersen certainly has a nice track record with a very good team—one that plays in the demanding Western Conference. His surface numbers this past season were strong, including in five playoff games for the Ducks. Obviously the Ducks are moving forward with young John Gibson, and that evidently made Andersen expendable.
Unlike when the Leafs brought in Jonathan Bernier to basically hand him the number-one job over Reimer (when I did not think the Leaf goaltending needed a supposed upgrade in the first place), this move just makes sense to me. Back then, the Bernier deal created unnecessary issues that were never really resolved, in my view, until Reimer was finally traded himself this past season.
But this feels like a different situation. Bernier had some good moments toward the end of this past season, and certainly was a calming presence early on in his Leaf tenure. But unlike Reimer a few years ago, Bernier is not coming off a stellar season and a nice little playoff run. There is no undisputed top guy in goal in Toronto right now.
Too, it’s difficult to know for sure where Bernier was going to fit in the Maple Leaf puzzle moving forward anyway. And Andersen, unlike Bernier in very limited time with the Kings, has a proven track record—albeit a relatively brief one, as a number-one guy. And maybe most importantly, he has held that role in the playoffs, including playing 16 such games for Anaheim just a year ago.
There will be a lot of other things to discuss in the days ahead (where will Stamkos land in July, etc.) from a Leaf perspective, but I like the fact that management has made a decisive move to steady the most critical position on a roster that has been in flux for some time.