The “Monster” Will Not Be Back—What Are Brian Burke’s Goaltending Options?

April 15th, 2012 14 Comments

If you watched Brian Burke’s press conference last week one thing became very clear—Jonas “the monster” Gustavsson will not be back with the Toronto Maple Leafs next season.

The goaltender Burke once called “the best goalie not playing in the NHL” has been nothing short of mediocre since joining the Maple Leafs in 2009-10.

Through 107 career NHL games, Gustavsson assembled a 39-45-15 record to go along with a 2.92 goals against average and a paltry .902 save percentage. Gusatvsson had 17 of those wins this season (a career high) but outside of the four shutouts he earned, you never really got the feeling he was a legitimate number one goaltender.

With James Reimer on the shelf for much of the season Gustavsson was given every opportunity to snatch the starters role from Reimer’s hands. Instead, Gustavsson looks to have played himself out of Toronto.

“Positionally we have to look at the goaltending, it wasn’t good enough this year,” said Burke at his press conference. I think that James Reimer is the real deal; I think we can still plan on him being a number one guy, but we have to look at if we can bring in a guy that can bring us more options and more performance right from the get-go next year.”

If you take anything away from Burke’s statement it is that Reimer is still his guy and that, with no mention of Gustavsson, the Swedish sensation is as good as gone next season.

Gustavsson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, could be re-signed with the intention of having him play at the AHL level with the Toronto Marlies, but with young goalies Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas both in need of further development it would appear that Gustavsson will not be back at any level.

A quick look at this summers UFA’s reveals few options for Burke.

Sure, Martin Brodeur is an unrestricted free agent this summer, but you gotta believe the New Jersey Devils will re-sign him.

Retreads like Ty Conklin, Chris Mason, Dwayne Roloson, Scott Clemmensen, Brent Johnson, Marty Turco, Dan Ellis and Marty Biron will also be UFA’s this summer, but none of them look to be the type of goaltender that Burke is looking for.

With that in mind, the only UFA that Burke may have some interest in would be the Minnesota Wild’s Josh Harding or maybe the likes of Tomas Vokoun who is currently on the Washington Capitals injury list—but neither is very likely.

What it all means is if Burke wants to bring in a legitimate number one goaltender (or at least a 1A) he is going to have to find him via trade.

So, which NHL teams will be looking to shed a goaltender from their roster next season?

If things keep going poorly in Vancouver Roberto Luongo could become available, but with 10 years and nearly $54 million in cap hits (or about $47 million in salary) and a no-trade clause to boot, there is little chance Burke makes a move for Luongo—especially when you consider Luongo’s penchant for coming up small in a pressure-cooker environment.

I mean, if Roberto thinks Vancouver is a tough place to play, can you imagine how easily Luongo would get chewed up by the Toronto media? Forget about it!

Vancouver’s other goaltender, Cory Schneider, has long been the apple of many an NHL-GM’s eye, but it is hard to imagine the Canuck’s trading Schneider—especially if Luongo continues to struggle in the playoffs.

The other name that often gets mentioned in trade rumors is Los Angeles Kings prospect Jonathan Bernier.

With Jonathan Quick looking like a legitimate Vezina Trophy candidate for years to come, the Kings are set between the pipes. That means Bernier could be made available, for the right price.

Through 48 career games Bernier has assembled a tidy 20-17-5 record to go along with five shutouts, a 2.50 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.

Not exceptional numbers, but certainly better than anything Burke has been getting from his goalies, and certainly enough upside with which to build upon.

Born in Laval, Quebec, Bernier was drafted in the first round (11th overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. At 23 years of age Bernier has paid his dues in the minors and looks to have all the tools to assume a number one role with an NHL team.

So, what would it take to land the likes of Bernier out of Los Angeles?

While not an easy question to answer, Toronto’s first round draft choice (fifth overall) in this years NHL Entry Draft would certainly be more than enough for Los Angeles to pull the trigger on a deal with Toronto. Of course, I would suspect that Burke would ask for Los Angeles’ second rounder as well (they do not have a first round draft pick this year), which will allow Burke to stockpile another solid prospect, but hardly the high-end talent he could get at number five.

Surely, shipping out the fifth overall pick would not be popular in Toronto. But when you consider Toronto’s greatest organizational need is a goaltender, perhaps Bernier would be worth the price tag.

I guess that’s what it all comes down to. If you feel the greatest organizational need is a centre you hold onto the fifth overall pick and take a shot at Alex Galchenyuk, or Radek Faksa. If it is goaltending, Burke has the option of approaching Los Angeles.

With the exception of James Reimer’s cup of coffee with the big club, Toronto hasn’t had a legitimate young goaltender between the pipes since Felix “the cat” Potvin.

The time has come for Burke to make a bold move, that move should be the acquisition of Bernier at just about any cost. You want Kadri? No problem? Need a defenseman? How about Luke Schenn? You need that fifth overall draft pick? Sure thing!

In today’s NHL you do not win hockey games without a legitimate goaltender. With James Reimer’s future in doubt, Bernier would be a solid addition for the Maple Leafs, and perhaps the final piece in making Burke’s playoff dreams a reality.

Until next time,



  1. burke would have to be out of his mind to give up a fifth rounder .

  2. MarkRitter says:

    Hi Gerry-

    yeah, he would be outta his mind giving up the fith overall pick, but he would also be outta his mind if he went with Reimer as his number one goalie and nothing else up his sleeve. Reimer’s neck issues are well documented, and I think the injury is serious enough that his acreer could go either way. Bernier looks to be a legitimate number one goalie, those are VERY hard to find these days. I have to admit, I would be much more comfortable getting Schneider in return for the pick, but I just don’t see Vancouver letting him go, do you?
    Again, it all comes down to whether or not you feel goaltending is of the utmost importance. If it is, Burke should look at trading the pick for a legit goalie (doesn’t have to be Bernier). If not, hold onto the pick and hope that Galchenyuk is available when you select at number five. I gotta feeling Montreal will select him though…and then what? Take a flyer on Faska? Draft another D-Man or Winger? I dunno about that, I like the idea of adding a goalie much better!

  3. Ghostrider1174 says:

    Theres a way to solve both center and goalie. Get Jerome and Mikka from calgary. It can be done but Brian will have to dish out his young assets. They could get Nash and then get Mikka from calgary. Mikka is the best fit cause hes a pure butterfly goalie and since mr burke wants allarie Mikka is the best out there.

  4. MarkRitter says:

    I think both Mikka and Iggy (who is actually a right winger) would be excellent additions to just about any club, but in the long run these are not the right fits for Burke. Burke needs to continue the trend of bringing in young players, let them grow into their roles together, let them fail and succeed together. Bringing in Iggy and Mikka is old-skool thinking, which will not work for Toronto IMO. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Dave says:

    If theres no trade out there (I’d have to think long and hard to find one I’d like to be honest) I’d take a flyer on Biron, Hedberg, Montoya or Clemmenson (again). If that all failed, Harding would likely cost the least in terms of a trade and return value in my mind. I also wonder about snagging Jack Campbell out of Dallas (yes another American, but I digress. Lehtonen is their undisputed number one and they ran with Bachman as a back up in lieu of Raycroft. Lehtonen is signed long term so their set there and if Niewendyk is planning on running with Bachman (hes done a pretty good job) then the young Campbell becomes expendable. He can only start in the AHL for so long.

    He may not be the undisputed number one were looking for, but I highly doubt were going to land a legit guy anyways – of course unless we trade that number 5 overall which I’m not a fan of. Campbell doesnt fit the veteran experience factor either but I honestly think outside of some miracle, we have to stay the course here. Prices are just too high and we all know whats happened in Leaf history (short term and long term) when weve given up high picks. Worst case, we trade Rynaas over in a deal for Campbell and then give him the reigns in the AHL playing for a contender – if Scrivens faulters, we bring in Campbell. Not ideal, I know. But man did he look good in the under 18 2010-2011 or what. Painful, I know.

    Only other younger type of guy I can think of – albeight with more experience but a leser price tag hopefully in terms of experienced guys is Bob in Philly.

    What a mess….but I think we have to see it through as tough as that may be.


  6. Dave says:

    Another quick thought on trades Mark, Lindback may be the best of the back ups available at a reasonable cost (although I dont think Nashville is in a rush to deal him – more than they are to build his value) . This is a guy whos shown starting potential.

    Holtby – at the top of my list and was before the puck dropped on 2011/2012. Price would be pretty steep I think as I cant see Washington wanting to deal him irregardless of what happens here in the first round. You want him – you over pay huge – thats the type of deal to get him out I think.

    Finally, I could see a situation where either Halak or Hiller gets moved out of their respective cities. Again, prices will be steep but not in the realm of a 5th overall. Perhaps our 2nd in 2012 and a roster player or mid level prospect.


  7. Dave says:

    Oh and a reporter from the Star is reporting Allaire may be ready to call it a day and call it a career. Wonder how this will affect our situation. Cant say I’m sad to see him go…but it will likely affect how our goalies develop if true (good or bad) and will impact how we move forward in making decisions on guys and whether or not to shop for a guy.

  8. peterj says:

    The last thing Burke should do is trade the #5 pick, if this team is ever going to go any where they need the top end young players that you can only get in the top 5 picks. It is the only way you can control your salary as well as aquire top end talent. As to goaltending I think Biron would be the best bet, he still has a couple of good years left and would be a good mentor for Reimer or Scrivens. The Leafs as Burke likes to remind every one has a lot of first round picks but most of them were from the bottom end of the first round, and none of them are a sure bet to be top six in the NHL

  9. Geoff says:

    I don’t understand how Bernier has proved himself as a legitimate starting goalie by posting below average stats on a team where Quick has posted outstanding stats. If we give up our first rounder for Bernier I will sincerely disappointed because it will be a clear sign that Brian Burke is making a desperate move to slightly improve his club.

    if we’re going to throw our first rounder at anyone it has to be the Canucks for Schneider. If not Schneider, we should get a solid veteran like Biron and let him guide Reimer back to the way he played in 2011.

  10. nhl fan. says:

    Good article Mark,

    I think Burke should make a play for Josh Harding. He is a steady goalie and I think he could be had fairly cheap compared to Schneider or Bernier. Maybe Gunnarsson or Franson.

  11. Dave says:

    NHL fan: IMO Harding is not a bad idea. Having said that I think Gunnar or Franson is an overpayment and generally clubs want a tender back in a deal for one. I would suggest the asking price would be more along the lines of Rynnas/Brown or Rynnas/Crabb. It is also highly likely that they would ask for Scrivens in a straight up deal if he takes the Marlies deep in the playoffs. In that case, Burke would likely want someone coming back the other way with Harding – perhaps Charie Coyle with Harding for Scrivens/mid pick. Dont see that getting it done with Coyle in there but Burkes price will increase as calls come in on Scrivens with a deep run and a strong showing.

    And on a side note, I’d love to see Coyle donning a Maple Leaf. Big kid who plays the Burke game with some scoring touch upside potential. Would look great running shotgun with Bradle Ross down the road with a potential to fill in on a 2nd line. Oh and yes, another American for the haters….



  12. Mark Ritter says:

    Nice call on Holtby Dave…he’s looking good for the Caps throughout the playoffs…now we’ll never get him though!

  13. […] the season ended, it was clear Gustavsson would never realize his full potential in Toronto (Burke once labelled him “the best goalie not playing […]

  14. […] the season ended, it was clear Gustavsson would never realize his full potential in Toronto (Burke once labelled him “the best goalie not playing in […]

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