While the real work has yet to begin, and there will be no shortage of speculation in the coming days about the master plans that Brian Burke has in mind for the summer, BB has found plenty to keep him occupied during these playoffs. His first moves have involved solidifying the Leafs’ future in net and adding to the depth on the blueline, prefacing what I believe will be a summer that sees some talented new faces arrive in Toronto.
First, Burke signed Jonas Gustavsson to a 2 year deal that ensures that the young Swede will have ample time to prove whether or not he is the franchise goalie many believe him to be. Personally, I’m inclined to believe he will, given the veteran presence of JS Giguere and a world-class goalie coach. His late season improvements left many Leaf fans wanting more, and if he can stay healthy through next season, I think we’ll see a vast decrease in the number of goals given up by the Buds.
In case Gustavsson doesn’t pan out, Burke has given himself two very viable options down the road. Jussi Rynnas, the Finnish SM-Liiga’s version of the Monster this season, posted impressive numbers this past year playing in the top European league besides the KHL. Rynnas’ 2.50 GAA and .929 save percentage might not be mind-blowing, but keep in mind that this was his first season at the pro level and he played for the 2nd worst team in the entire league. Ben Scrivens, a 2010 Hobey Baker Finalist out of Cornell University, led the NCAA in GAA, save percentage and shutouts during his senior year, and Burke was able to lock him up as well.
Between Rynnas (22), Gustavsson (25), Scrivens (23) and James Riemer, who played extremely well when he wasn’t on the DL, the Leafs have an excellent opportunity to build themselves a stable of reliable and valuable assets between the pipes. With Allaire guiding this young group, there’s a pretty good chance at least one of them could become that franchise type goaltender that the Leafs have lacked since Cujo.
One other move Burke made was the signing of German Olympian Korbinian Holzer. The 22 year old was a member of the upstart German team that almost hung with the Canadians for a whole period in Vancouver this February, but he also played the rest of the year in Germany’s top league with the DEG Metro Stars. The former Toronto draft pick played well in international play as the 6’3 defenseman led Germany with 22 penalty minutes at the 2010 IIHF World Championships, where Germany had a surprising amount of success. My guess is Holzer will start the season in the AHL, with the hope that he can continue to develop to the NHL level.
All of these moves are of the low-risk, high-reward variety, but don’t expect too much more of them as Burke is expected to make at least one blockbuster deal this offseason. I think he’s done a good job of giving the Leafs a number of options for the future on the backend, and should now have his sights set firmly on acquiring some offense.