More Than Meets The Eye
If you didn't already know, the Maple Leafs have sent goaltender Jonas Gustavsson down to the Marlies on a conditioning stint. On the surface, this is the right move and something I've advocated for quite a while. (although I feel that Gustavsson needs a full season in the minors, not just two weeks) Yes from the outside this simply looks like an attempt to get Gustavsson his confidence back. While that is mostly true, in two weeks time when the conditioning stint is over, the Leafs are back to their three goaltender situation.
The dilemma is easy to figure out. Out of the three goaltenders the Leafs have, only one of them can be sent down to the Marlies indefinitely. Unfortunately, or fortunately whichever way you want to look at it, that goaltender is also the best the Leafs have right now. In fact, last night James Reimer posted his first career shutout and interestingly enough it was also the Leafs' first shutout of the season, 51 games in. Yes the Leafs have been on the opposite side of the shutout a plethora of times this season, but they finally got a chance to enjoy the winning side of it last night with some great goaltending from James Reimer and ridiculous shot blocking from the true Leafs Guardian, Tim Brent.
*If you're wondering, the Leafs were one of two teams without a shutout this season, the Flyers are the only team left without one.
But back to the Gustavsson situation.
The Leafs needed Gustavsson's permission to send him down due to his one-way contract. Without his permission, the Leafs would have been required to put Gustavsson through waivers, which of course they didn't want to do.
But why would Gustavsson agree to this? While he has a great opportunity to improve on his game and regain his confidence, he also has everything to lose. Gustavsson knows full well that while he's in net for the Marlies for the next couple of weeks, Reimer and Giguere will be given every opportunity to show what they've got with the big club. Gustavsson must know that even if he performs exceptionally with the Marlies, there is no guarantee that he'll have a role with the Leafs when he gets called up from his conditioning stint. Or maybe there is.
Like I said, I'm not knocking the decision to send Gustavsson down, I've advocated it all along. Maybe I'm wrong and Gustavsson wants the conditioning stint, and Brad Richards also wants to come to the Leafs. You see where I'm going with this? If Gustavsson wanted this, he wouldn't have been sitting in the press box for the last little while. Gustavsson knows full well that he would have been claimed on waivers and may have received a new opportunity elsewhere.
So it's my belief that two things are in play here. Either Gustavsson doesn't want to play for the Islanders either, or he's been promised at least a dressing role when he returns from his conditioning stint.
I believe that Gustavsson has been promised that either he or Giguere will be traded when he gets back. My guess is that it's most likely Giguere. A month or so ago, Brian Burke stated that he currently had an offer on the table to move one of his goaltenders today if he needed to. Of course I have no idea if such an offer still exists or ever existed, but I'm sure that moving Giguere wouldn't be too difficult, as long as the asking price is next to nothing.
One thing's for sure, the Leafs can't go past the deadline with three goaltenders and I really don't see them sending down Reimer unless he has a horrible stretch of games. Currently there is nothing to suggest that will happen, so if Leaf fans are looking for any certainty this coming deadline, it's pretty much set in stone that either Giguere or Gustavsson will be moved. Let the rumours begin.
Speaking of rumours, the Kaberle rumours have started up once again and after all of these years they will finally reach a conclusion whether he is dealt or not. Here's a little chart I made showing the value of Kaberle through the years.