Curtis McElhinney may have a two-year contract in hand, but the Toronto Maple Leafs likely realize he’s only a stopgap at age 34. They made a move in possibly securing the future behind franchise goalie Frederik Andersen on Friday, acquiring Calvin Pickard in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Vegas’ takeaway in this trade is meager: Tobias Lindberg and a sixth-round pick in 2018.
Simply put, it seems like Pickard was the odd man out.
The road ahead for Pickard is pretty murky, as the Leafs announced that he’s headed to the AHL. Pickard, 25, likely slots in at third on the Toronto depth chart ahead of Garret Sparks.
This is shrewd move for the Maple Leafs, who gave up very little for Pickard. He somewhat surprisingly already cleared waivers alongside defenseman Martin Marincin, so the Maple Leafs can allow him to marinate with the Marlies.
And, boy, does this serve as quite a bum deal for Pickard.
Consider that, in 2016-17, Pickard played 50 regular-season games for the Colorado Avalanche. He struggled in that situation, but then again, so did the Avalanche. Historically so.
Even with that troubled run, Pickard has produced a .914 career save percentage in 86 NHL games, which argues that he’s at least too good to be in the AHL. He turned some heads in international play this summer, making an argument that Pickard could prosper on a more even playing field.
It’s not even that outrageous to ponder a best-case scenario where he’d be part of a productive “platoon.”
The Avalanche ultimately opted to expose Pickard in the expansion draft, yet it seemed like the netminder would still get a chance to be a backup. Fans of teams with struggling starters or goalies may soon wonder why Pickard didn’t get claimed on waivers today, too.
Instead, the Maple Leafs’ nice gain is Pickard’s clear loss, and there’s even a chance that he’ll face more turbulence in the future if he gets moved again. Overall, it’s a bad break for a goalie who showed some promise.
It’s also another testament to the challenges a goalie faces without a beefy contract.