TORONTO - The world of goaltending options is closing in on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With Tomas Vokoun signed in Pittsburgh and Anders Lindback acquired by Tampa Bay, the list of available quality goalies has shrunk by two. And while there are many teams interested in inquiring about Los Angeles backup Jonathan Bernier, at this time the Kings prefer to maintain the status quo with Jonathan Quick as starter and Bernier behind him.
The pro-active trade Steve Yzerman made for Nashville’s Lindback hurts the Leafs in two different ways: 1) It removes a goalie they should have had interest in from the marketplace; 2) It provides one of their opponents in the Eastern Conference with potentially better goaltending than it has had in the past (and you know the Lightning, with Steven Stamkos, can score goals).
With Vokoun and Lindback scratched from the list of the available and the Kings’ Dean Lombardi saying “having only one quarterback is dangerous,” that leaves Roberto Luongo as their best goaltending option moving forward to this week’s NHL draft and trade meet. The good news with Luongo is it won’t cost much to get him. The bad news is it’s a long-term solution for the Leafs and if they still believe in James Reimer and, to a lesser extent, Ben Scrivens, then it isn’t an ideal situation for the development of a youngster.
While there are still run-of-the-mill free agents available such as Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen and Chris Mason, there is nothing that would excite Maple Leafs fans here. Luongo remains the most viable option — and that’s not without its pitfalls.
THIS AND THAT
A strange piece of salary business: The Stanley Cup champion Kings will pay Conn Smythe Trophy winner Quick $1.7 million next season. The Leafs will pay Reimer $1.8 million ... The Leafs haven’t officially cut ties with goalie Jonas Gustavsson yet, but that’s expected to happen between now and July 1 ... Yes, the Kings won the Stanley Cup as an eighth seed, but they were an eighth seed that happened to be second in the NHL in goals-against. A year ago, Boston, second in the NHL in goals-against, won the Stanley Cup. A few years earlier, the Red Wings, first in goals-against, won the Cup. Over that same five-year period, the Leafs were 27th, 30th, 29th, 24th and 29th in goals against. The only team not in the top 10 to win the Cup in the last six years: Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal at centre ... Look for the Boston Bruins to trade not-playing Tim Thomas to a low-spending team such as Colorado or the New York Islanders. The $5 million of Thomas sitting put would count against the salary cap, but the team wouldn’t have to pay the sitting-out Thomas. So for teams that need help getting to the floor of the new salary cap, it’s an inexpensive, no-risk piece of bookkeeping.
HEAR AND THERE
Next time you worry about making the team out of spring training, don’t. The baseball season is 73 days old. The Blue Jays have made 51 major league roster moves in that time ... While much has been made about the Jays’ injured starters and the strange nature of the succession, there should be almost equal concern about the remaining starters, Ricky Romero and Henderson Alvarez. Romero has made 14 starts this season, only five of them ace-like. And Alvarez, after looking phenom-like to start the season, has given up 21 earned runs in his past 31 innings pitched ... Saw John Mayberry, Jr. Saturday. Looks nothing like the old man, in body size or at the plate ... A Sports Illustrated poll indicated that baseball players consider Matt Cain to be the most underrated pitcher in the game. And that was before the perfect game. Romero, by the way, was high on the underrated list ... You have to wonder if closer Sergio Santos came to the Jays as damaged goods or if the White Sox knew something about his health before dealing him. In Santos’ last month in Chicago, he had a 9.35 earned-run average in 10 appearances with two saves and two blown saves.
SCENE AND HEARD
Lou Lamoriello told me in February that Zach Parise wasn’t going anywhere “because he’s a Devil.” Now, with free agency approaching, it appears Parise is leaning toward staying in New Jersey. That said, Parise will get across-the-board interest if he’s still available on July 1 and serious Stanley Cup pitches from the champion Kings and the forever relevant Red Wings ... Ron Hextall, who should be a GM in the NHL somewhere, has his name on the Conn Smythe Trophy from a defeated Philadelphia Flyers team. “Nobody wants their name on that trophy,” said Hextall. Then he pointed to the Stanley Cup. “You want your name on that trophy.” ... After Quick was presented with the Conn Smythe and held it for everyone to see, he handed it to NHL communications whiz, Dave Keon Jr. Keon Jr. was holding the trophy his famous father won in 1967 ... Brian Burke remains the odds-on favourite to be named GM of Team U.S.A.. for the 2014 Olympic Games. Even though Lombardi, Stan Bowman and Ray Shero have won Stanley Cups since Burke won his Cup, U.S.A. Hockey likes having a general manager who can sell the game ... The Maple Leafs have only three forwards signed beyond the coming season: Phil Kessel, Mike Brown and Mikhail Grabovkski.
AND ANOTHER THING
Lady Gaga recently suffered a concussion while doing her act. Up next: A study on head shots and safety on the rock concert circuit ... The best thing about the Stanley Cup being over: A clean-shaven Dustin Brown ... A Sunday quiz: Which Los Angeles Kings player has Taylor Swift shown an interest in dating? ... Congrats to our own Dan Shulman, honoured this week as U.S. sportscaster of the year. Past winners include: Al Michaels, Bob Costas, Vin Scully, Mike Tirico, Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy, Pat Summerall, Chris Berman, Keith Jackson, Jim Nantz and Dan Patrick. That’s heady company ... Watched Games 1 and 2 of the NBA final and came away with one overwhelming thought: Is this really the same league the Raptors play in? Looks like the Raps play in the second division ... Another thought: If Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero are now available, why isn’t the WWE calling? Can’t you just see a Manny and Vladdy tag team? .... If you’ve never done it before, take a good look at Babe Ruth’s career stats. He won more than 20 games at the ages of 21 and 22, with a career earned run average of 2.28. He hit 54 and 59 home runs at the ages of 25 and 26 and ended his career with an OPS of 1.164. Can you imagine something like that today? Hard to believe it ever happened ... Happy Father’s Day and I hope yours is as wonderful and memorable as was mine ... Happy birthday to Manny Lee (47), Danny McManus (47), Venus Williams (32), Popeye Jones (42), Ultimate Warrior (53), John Garrett (61) and Dave Concepcion (64) ... And hey, whatever became of Rory McIlroy?
SUNDIN SHOULD BE LOCK FOR HALL OF FAME
The Mats Sundin debate is about to begin. Really, it should be no debate at all. It’s rather elementary, actually. Sundin is a Hall of Fame player. He is eligible this year and should be elected this month. Sundin played 18 seasons in the NHL and led his team in scoring 13 different times. It isn’t just that he led his team — it’s by how much he led that tells you about Sundin the player. At 26, he won the Leaf scoring title by 44 points. At 37, he won it by 22. In only one of his 13 Toronto seasons was a player within 10 points of him, either way. Did he win a bunch of Stanley Cups the way Brendan Shanahan did? No. But like many before him, he was never on a team that should have won a Stanley Cup. In this Hall of Fame year, Joe Sakic, Sundin’s teammate from Quebec, is the slam dunk. But Shanahan and Sundin should be part of that class and maybe — our preference — they’ll add in Pavel Bure to make it four.
THE NEXT GREAT NHL COACH?
You started hearing about Ken Hitchcock when just about everybody in junior hockey knew he was an emerging coaching talent. And the name we’re hearing about now, more often than not, is Jon Cooper of the Norfolk Admirals. He won the AHL title this year after winning championships in the three previous leagues he coached in since putting his law degree aside. He is NHL-ready. And he should end up with one of the two remaining coaching jobs open — in Edmonton or Washington. Most people thought the Oilers would name Brent Sutter head coach just after the world championships ended, but that hasn’t happened. The hiring of Cooper in Edmonton would make some sense of the Oilers’ waiting. In Washington, GM George McPhee has said he is no hurry to name a coach. But when you get in on the ground floor on who might be the next great coach, you should act swiftly. Cooper is worth going after. If you wait too long, he might not be available.
JAYS STILL HAVE LITTLE TO SHOW FOR HALLADAY TRADE
It is approaching two-and-a-half seasons since the Blue Jays dealt Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies and, really, they have nothing-to-very-little to show on their big-league roster for trading away one of baseball’s best starting pitchers. Kyle Drabek’s career is once again in question, with him back on the disabled list, possibly in need of surgery. Catcher Travis D’Arnaud remains at triple-A Las Vegas, an emerging prospect at the age of 23 who eventually will play for the Jays. The same for outfielder Anthony Gose, who wasn’t part of the original Halladay deal but was flipped for first baseman Brett Wallace. He, too, is expected to one day play in Toronto. The question becomes: When does one day happen? What’s interesting at this point is the Jays at 33-32 have a better record that the 31-36 Phillies, with neither team looking much like a contender in their league. Eventually, the Jays should have a real return on the Halladay deal. But like everything to do with the Jays, it’s always about waiting.