Given James Reimer's sophomore season it is needed. Reimer is a good goalie, maybe one day a great one, but he's inconsistent and both he and the now departed Jonas Gustavsson had a tendency to produce mediocre efforts in games of particular import. Given the Leafs need another lost regular season like a sinking ship needs another hole in its hull, expect that Burke will keep his promise and find that veteran goalie.
Naturally Leaf fans, and much of the hockey world, would love to know who that goalie might be and, though a difficult task, Digital Journal will attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff and declare, boldly, the four NHL veterans who are the most likely candidates to be the next starting goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Roberto Luongo: not a Maple Leaf
Now we've heard the Roberto Luongo rumors too, you'd have to be living under an ice arena not to have, BUT it is all but certain he's going back to the Florida Panthers, likely the plan all along. Here again we could link and quote but suffice to say that there are a number of indicators the Leafs are not in the running, and may not have ever made a serious offer.
If Bobby Lou is gone - and he is gone - it makes an already lengthy list of goalies that might
have been, that much longer. Among those that might have been acceptable but are now also gone are Josh Harding, Martin Brodeur, Scott Clemmensen, Tomas Vokoun, Tim Thomas (unless he's fibbing about taking a year off), Johan Hedberg, Al Montoya and Anders Lindback. The last two are a bit of a stretch, likely not veteran enough for Burke, so in fact let's cross them off the list and put them on the one below, the list of those not acceptable.
Those not acceptable are such due to age - too young or too old - or because they simply cannot be trusted to get the Leafs to the postseason. On this list some were available but no longer are, and all were unacceptable in any case:
Alex Auld, Ty Conklin, Dwayne Roloson, Antero Niittymaki, Brent Johnson, Yann Danis, Chris Mason, Curtis Sanford, Michael Leighton, Dan Ellis, Curtis McElhinney, Jonathan Bernier and Andrew Raycroft. Remember Burke needs as close as he can get to a sure thing so a goalie like Bernier, with great potential (like Reimer or Ben Scrivens) doesn't fit the bill.
Brian Burke: Trade market for Leafs goalie
The way it will get it done is as Burke said - via trade. Even here there are goalies to cross off the list. With Pittsburgh now grabbing Tomas Vokoun, for example, they could put Marc-Andre Fleury on the market. The only thing wrong with that scenario is that despite his Stanley Cup ring, and two appearances in the final, Fleury's game is slipping, and Burke doesn't need slipping. Others who might be made available but aren't acceptable to trade for include Sergei Bobrovsky, Ray Emery, Corey Crawford, Martin Biron, Jonas Enroth and Jason LaBarbera.
So finally then an examination of NHL teams with respect their goaltending leads to the conclusion that one of the following will be the goalie Brian Burke deals for to mentor Reimer and Scrivens and get his Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 (drum roll please):
Evgeni Nabokov, Brian Elliot, Nikolai Khabibulin or Jose Theodore.
the Islanders are stocked with experienced, young goalies, Rick DiPietro is due for a season free of injury and Nabokov had years in San Jose where he dominated;
Elliot had a great season in St. Louis but they have Jaroslav Halak and Jake Allen and need scoring;
while Khabibulin would be a stop-gap, he might work for one season;
Theodore will become available when Luongo joins the Panthers (unless he's part of the deal going the other way) and he's a former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner.
There are no sure things in life, especially when it comes to goaltending in hockey, but these four, given that Luongo is gone - he's gone! - are the closest to a sure thing, in other words a playoff berth, that Burke will find, and none of them would be considered untouchable by their current clubs. If it's not one of those four - it really has to be though, no? - then who?