The issue at hand for the Leafs is the professional level depth, bridging the gap between Frederik Andersen and the youth tandem of Joseph Woll and Ian Scott. With Michal Neuvirth signing a PTO in Toronto, is he the answer to this issue?
If anything, Michal Neuvirth’s PTO with the Toronto Maple Leafs echos the vast majority of Leaf fans’ sentiments, that we don’t have faith in Garret Sparks as the Leafs backup goalie this season.
The stats really speak to this issues Sparks had last season backing up Andersen. While marginally improved from his season NHL prior in some categories, Sparks still struggled in his 20-games played in 18/19. Going 8-9-1, Sparks posted a .902 save percentage and GAA of 3.15, Sparks failed to impact the Leafs positively. For a contending team like the Leafs are this simply isn’t good enough for what is becoming an increasingly important position.
The signing of Michael Hutchinson to a 1-year, 700k contract suggested that the ex-Jet and Panther goalie would assume Sparks’ position as the backup. This move wasn’t exciting, but a fresh face was seemingly better than predictably underwhelming Sparks. This has all gone out the window, however, with Neuvirth’s PTO.
What can we expect?
Michal Neuvirth offers something the Leafs have been lacking since Curtis McElhinney – NHL experience. Neuvirth is 31-years old and has played in 257 NHL games for Washington, Buffalo, the Islanders, and most recently the Philadelphia Flyers.
His career GAA is 2.71 and his career save percentage is .910% which, on the whole, makes him a serviceable and about average NHL goaltender. But, one must ask why, then, would a solid goalie be training in the Czech Republic and signing a PTO with the cap-strapped Maple Leafs if he is still able to maintain his career level of play?
Because is 2018/19 season suggests he may be regressing. In a heavily injury-ridden season, Neuvirth played in just 7 NHL games (1 AHL game), and posted an inflated 4.27 GAA and a save percentage of just .859%. While not inspiring, you can see the idea from Dubas and co. on this one.
Get him in on a PTO with no risk, put him in a better defensive system with the revamped defensive core of the Maple Leafs, put him through the wringer with training camp, and lastly see if you can make a low-ball offer on a short term deal to revive his career.
The Leafs previously took a risk on McElhinney (albeit much less of one) just one season removed from one of his worst NHL seasons for the Blue Jackets. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take risky NHL veteran over unreliable AHL goaltenders all day.