Less than 24 hours after Jonas Gustavsson’s shaky performance in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils, Leafs goaltending coach Francois Allaire met with reporters this morning to address arguably the biggest weakness on a Toronto team that’s dropping perilously close to out of the playoff picture.
Allaire’s message? Toronto’s goaltending duo is inexperienced, so…yeah, that’s the way it is.
“We’ve got two young kids in the net,” Allaire said, referring to Gustavsson, 27, and James Reimer, 23. “Not a lot of experience. Nobody has more than 90 games in the NHL. So that’s normal and we’re right in the middle of [the playoff race].
“We’ll see if we’re strong enough to get through.”
There, feel better, Leafs fans? The goalies are inexperienced. What are you gonna do? /shrugs shoulders.
If Toronto misses the playoffs again, expect general manager Brian Burke to face sharp criticism for rolling the dice with two unproven netminders.
True, Reimer — the uncontested starter out of training camp — suffered a concussion early in the season and that likely affected his performance after getting back into the lineup. However, the fact remains that Burke gambled on a kid with just 35 starts under his belt on a team that faces enormous pressure to make the playoffs.
As the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches, it’ll be interesting to see if Burke pursues a veteran goalie like former Leaf Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Islanders starter Evgeni Nabokov, because if the Leafs don’t at least make the playoffs, the knives will be out in Toronto.
Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M
Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.
Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.
Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.
But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.
Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.
Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon
A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).
Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.
There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).
Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.
Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.
Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:
As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.
Kurtis Foster, who appeared in over 400 games during a 10-year NHL career, is hanging up his skates to enter the next phase of his hockey life — coaching.
Foster, 34, has rejoined his former junior team in OHL Peterborough as an assistant coach, per the Examiner. The decision comes after Foster spent the last three years playing overseas in the KHL and, most recently, in the German League.
The 40th overall pick in 2000, Foster is often remembered for a horrific leg break while playing for Minnesota during the 2007-08 campaign, in which his femur was shattered by Torrey Mitchell after Mitchell tried to prevent an icing call.