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Between now and the NHL Draft, there are a number of factors that could affect the direction that the Toronto Maple Leafs take in regards to the club for next season. Arguably the most important decision is between the pipes, where the club appears to be ready to move on from Jack Campbell, based on his rumored price tag as an unrestricted free agent, and the speculation that GM Kyle Dubas will look to either trade or buyout Petr Mrazek one year into a three-year, $11.4 million deal.
Late last week, TSN’s Chris Johnston speculated that the Leafs could be interested in two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray, possibly after being bought out by Ottawa or in a trade if the Sens retained salary or took back a contract like Mrazek in the deal. On Monday, Sportsnet’s Nick Alberga reported that Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson has informed the club that he would be open to being dealt.
Gibson is entering year four of an eight-year, $51.2 million deal ($6.4 million AAV) and has a modified no-trade clause (with a 10-team no-trade list). The 28-year-old was likely going to be the starter for Team USA if the NHL went to the Beijing Olympics and was having a great season (15-10-8, 2.49 GAA, .922 save %) until the beginning of February.
Ducks new GM Pat Verbeek decided to move out all of their pending UFA’s (Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, Nicolas Deslaurier) prior to the deadline, and Anaheim plummeted in the standings, which was reflected in Gibson’s horrible numbers (3-16-3, 4.32 GAA, .876 save percentage).
Two factors are central to any speculation regarding Gibson; is he truly available and if so, would he be worth the likely hefty cost for the Leafs.
On Monday’s Buzzcast, Kevin Allen mentioned that even if the report of Gibson being open to a trade is true, that is no guarantee that Verbeek will look to move him unless he gets his asking price. The Ducks are clearly rebuilding around youngsters Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, Troy Terry, and Jamie Drysdale, which means their timetable for being a playoff contender may be two or three years down the road.
With the market for a top starting goaltender being extremely brisk this summer, it might be the right time to move Gibson, who would likely draw a return of a young player, top prospect, and a first-round pick.
Toronto is at a crossroads when it comes to their situation between the pipes. They moved on from goaltending coach Steve Briere after seven seasons, and appear to be ready to move on from one or both of their netminders from last year. For all the concerns about injuries with Gibson, the Pittsburgh native has played 50 or more games five of the last six seasons and would undoubtedly have an easier workload with a contending team like the Leafs over a young rebuilding Ducks squad.
The cost could be prohibitive. Prospects like Nick Robertson or Rasmus Sandin would be in the mix, and the deal could be bigger if an established player like William Nylander was included, but Dubas is in a position where he has to make the right decision in goal for next season or it may cost him his job.