New Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is tasked with helping the club continue to grow and one of the first decisions he may need to make regards the future of goaltender Garret Sparks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliates, the Toronto Marlies, are currently tied 2-2 with the Texas Stars in the finals of the Calder Cup, a position they owe much to Garret Sparks for.
Sparks, 24, has had arguably the best season of his professional career, thanks to a .936 save percentage and a 1.79 Goals Against Average in 43 regular season games.
His performances led to him being named the best goaltender in the AHL, winning the Baz Bastien Award earlier this year.
Sparks’ performances have continued in the playoffs, with the American goalie sporting a .918 save percentage and a 2.16 GAA in 16 playoff appearances – helping the team remain in the hunt for silverware.
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He has some experience playing for the Maple Leafs in the NHL, with 17 regular season games to his name during the 2015/16 campaign.
In each season since then, Sparks’ performances in the AHL have improved and he should now be a strong contender for the Leafs’ backup role next season.
The Leafs, meanwhile, currently have veteran Curtis McElhinney penned in as their number number behind Frederik Andersen, but Dubas could look to cash in on the former’s strong performances last season.
McElhinney, who the Leafs claimed off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2016, had an exceptional time as Andersen’s understudy and capped off the year by being Canada’s starting goalie in the 2018 World Championships.
The Ontario native is arguably at his all-time high in terms of value and could well be a trade candidate for Dubas, who will be wary of the goalies waiting in the wings of the AHL.
The Leafs recently signed Kasimir Kaskisuo to a new contract and, along with Sparks, also have Calvin Pickard on their books and will need to be aware of a goaltending juggling act next season.
Kaskisuo spent this past season on-loan to the Chicago Wolves, another AHL team, to ensure his development isn’t stifled by the glut of talented goalies the Leafs and Marlies have at their disposal.
The re-signing of the Finn shows a clear intent for him to have a bigger role with the Marlies next season, leaving Pickard and Sparks with questions about their future.
Pickard is capable of being a top starting goalie in the AHL, with Kaskisuo pushing for more playing time in a system Dubas himself has had a big hand in developing.
Sparks, on the other hand, is ready to be given a real shot at being an NHL backup – paving the way for the Leafs to make a deal for McElhinney.
Big Mac has been a great backup for the Leafs, but with Sparks knocking on the door and an opportunity for Dubas to pick up potential draft picks, it is time for the team to start looking towards the future between the pipes.
Given that McElhinney just turned 35, the return on him will not be huge, but even a late draft pick would give the Leafs space for Sparks to step up and even free up an extra contract slot.
What do you think, Toronto Maple Leafs fans? Should the team promote Sparks to the backup role, or should they stick with McElhinney for one last season?