Plenty of question marks as Leafs return from NHL lockout
Goaltending, is that an important question? If the answer is yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs face a very important question. And there are plenty more — first-line centre and the top-four defencemen among them — facing the team as it prepares to join the rush to training camp this week.
Toronto owns the NHL’s longest active playoff drought, having not made an appearance since before the last lockout, nine years ago. The Leafs finished 12 points out of the post-season last year, 13th overall in the Eastern Conference.
If they are to snap that run in a shortened schedule, they will have to address each of the following issues carefully, because every game will mean something.
Goaltending: Leafs general manager Brian Burke could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday, and that allowed a wave of speculation around Roberto Luongo to pick up right where it left off before the lockout began, more than 100 days ago. The 33-year-old goaltender has likely played his final game with the Vancouver Canucks, and a trade to Toronto has been rumoured for months. The hitch? He lives in Florida, and it is thought the Panthers are also interested in his services. (Luongo has a no-trade clause in his contract, giving him some say in where he ends up.) Details of the new collective agreement will also answer questions about how his contract — which runs through 2021-22 with a cap hit of US$5.3-million — would fit in the new landscape. (What might happen with the cap hit if he retires early? Might the Canucks simply opt to buy him out, instead?) As it stands, James Reimer and Ben Scrivens (who has spent the lockout with the Marlies, Toronto’s AHL affiliate) are in the running for the starting job.