December 5, 2016
The Toronto Maple Leafs officially waived backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth today, leaving both the club and the player at a crossroads.
The undersized Enroth has struggled mightily this season, perhaps being a tad too small to play behind a defence this inexperienced and porous, sporting an 0-3-1 record through just 6 games of work with the Maple Leafs with a 3.94 GAA and an ugly save percentage of .872.
Enroth excelled in the backup position last year as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, winning 7 games while recording a 2.17 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
It remains to be seen if Enroth will be claimed, but he’s a capable, experienced NHL backup that did not work out in Toronto’s system, but is likely too good for the AHL. Theoretically, if he clears waivers, Enroth could be sent to the AHL Toronto Marlies, but there’s a glut of goalies in Toronto’s system (Antoine Bibeau, Garret Sparks, Jeff Glass, Kasimir Kaskisuo) and going to the Marlies would likely not be beneficial for Enroth’s career.
Instead, if Enroth doesn’t get claimed, it is entirely possible that he seeks employment overseas, perhaps in his home country of Sweden.
From a team standpoint, it seems a little early (but not entirely unexpected) to waive an experienced backup goalie with a limited sample size of games played, but it’s clear that Lou Lamoriello and the rest of management had seen enough in the 6 games Enroth played to decide that he’s not right for this current system.
A smaller goalie, Enroth is listed at 5”10 and 171 pounds, is not in a position to succeed behind a weak defence that allows too many breaks, odd-man rushes, and shots overall. Enroth’s high sides have been consistently exploited by the opposition this year, and the two quick goals scored by Calgary in the first period of Enroth’s last start may have been the final nails in the coffin. Toronto’s defence needs to take some responsibility for letting Enroth down, but shaky defence aside, it quickly became clear that Jhonas Enroth is not the right backup goalie for the Leafs at this time.
So, now that Enroth is waived, who is going to be Frederik Andersen’s new backup?
Toronto has a few options here, as former Calgary netminder Karri Ramo has been seen practicing and working out with the team for the last few weeks as he rehabs a left knee injury, not to mention the four goalies in the Toronto system that were mentioned earlier.
The obvious answer here is to sign Ramo as soon as he officially becomes available to return from his injury, but things are never that simple in the hockey world.
Remember when the Leafs acquired Jared Cowen in last season’s Dion Phaneuf trade with Ottawa? Remember how Cowen claimed to be injured when Toronto attempted to buy him out in the offseason and he filed a buyout grievance? This could potentially haunt the Leafs in more than just a monetary sense, as Cowen could take up a much coveted Standard Player Contract (SPC) spot in the organization if the buyout does not go through.
Toronto currently has 48 SPC’s, 49 if Cowen succeeds in his legal case. The important thing here is that every NHL team can have a maximum of 50 SPC’s, meaning they’d reach the full quota if you count Jared Cowen, Jhonas Enroth clears waivers and his contract isn’t terminated, and if they sign Karri Ramo.
Assuming that happens, or assuming Toronto wants to keep some roster flexibility and not have Ramo take up another roster spot, who are the other options for backup goalie?
The easiest answer is Marlies starter Antoine Bibeau, who has looked stellar on the Marlies for the past couple of campaigns, and has been called up a number of times without seeing any NHL action as of yet. In fact, he was called up just a few days ago as an emergency call-up when Frederik Andersen was fighting off illness.
So far this season, Bibeau has seen action in 13 games for the Marlies, registering a 6-5-3 record with a 2.54 GAA and .907 SV%. The 22 year old has likely earned at least a part time shot at the backup role, until the Cowen situation plays itself out and until they figure out what to do with Enroth at the very least.
If management decides to go another route, there are still two other potential options; Garret Sparks and Jeff Glass.
Garret Sparks made headlines recently for being suspended by the team for comments he made in a closed Facebook group he’s a member of, but has since returned to the Marlies. He’s seen action in 6 AHL games this season, going 4-2-0 with a solid 2.36 GAA and .913 SV%.
Leafs fans will remember him as the guy who became the first Leafs goalie to record a shutout in his NHL debut when he blanked Edmonton last season (and don’t forget about his CuJo style mask and awesome Trevor Kidd-esque pads), and he ended up playing in 17 games for the big club down the stretch.
Sparks looked overwhelmed at times last season when up with the Leafs, and it became clear that he wasn’t yet ready for full-time NHL action. A 7th round pick in the 2011 draft, Sparks’ ceiling is lower than Bibeau’s, despite seeing more NHL action than the Marlies starter, and it’s far more likely that we see Sparks take over as the full-time/1A Marlies starter than see him get called up to the bigs.
The last potential option is a total wild card, but we cannot yet rule it out. That wild card is 31 year old former World Junior champion, Jeff Glass.
Glass is currently on a professional tryout (PTO) with the Marlies, another result of Toronto’s SPC situation, and has only played in 2 games with the Marlies thus far. However, he’s an experienced vet that has backstopped Canada to World Junior gold back in 2004/2005 as a member of that star studded team led by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Dion Phaneuf and Jeff Carter.
More recently, Glass has been a mainstay in the KHL since the 2009/2010 season, recording stellar numbers all around and even got a chance last season to play for Team Canada once again, this time as a member of their Spengler Cup team. He’s recorded a 1-1 record with a 2.05 GAA and .917 SV% in two games with the Marlies this year.
While it’s highly unlikely that Glass becomes the next Leafs backup, it’s still possible if Toronto decides that Bibeau and Sparks are not ready for NHL action, Karri Ramo does not recover from injury in time or prices himself out of the equation, and they still want to go the inexpensive veteran route. What’s far likelier is that Glass becomes the AHL backup/#1B, splitting time with Garret Sparks, assuming Antoine Bibeau gets the call-up.
Here’s a look at what the goalie shuffle could potentially end up looking like, once all the dust settles.
Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Marlies Orlando Solar Bears
Frederik Andersen Garret Sparks Kasimir Kaskisuo
Antoine Bibeau Jeff Glass Ryan Massa
Jhonas Enroth —> Europe Karri Ramo —> UFA