TORONTO – With the Toronto Maple Leafs looking primed for their first playoff appearance since 2004, general manager Dave Nonis says he’s satisfied with his team’s goaltending.
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t looking for an upgrade prior to the NHL trade deadline.
Nonis courted Miikka Kiprusoff on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning before the veteran Calgary Flames goalie made it clear he wouldn’t be moving east.
The Maple Leafs were also rumoured to have made another call to the Vancouver Canucks about Roberto Luongo, but that deal also failed to materialize.
Nonis instead settled on a trade with depth in mind, acquiring defenceman Ryan O’Byrne from the Colorado Avalanche for a fourth-round pick.
Nonis was given permission to speak with Kiprusoff—who doesn’t have a no-trade clause but indicated he would not report to another team if dealt—but was unable to convince him to join the Maple Leafs.
“I think there were a lot of issues (for Kiprusoff), a lot of them personal,” Nonis said at an Air Canada Centre press conference after Wednesday’s trade deadline passed. “When I spoke with him he sounded engaged and interested but there are other things that go into these decisions.
“He has a new baby, he’s got other things on his mind and to his credit he didn’t want to take a contract extension and come to Toronto without being fully committed and engaged.”
While not addressing Luongo and his mammoth contract directly, Nonis reiterated that any roster addition has to meet a number of criteria.
“From our standpoint, any player that we bring in on a going-forward basis has to make sense for us long term, and you couple that with the assets you’d have to give up to get that player,” said Nonis, whose team sits fifth in the Eastern Conference. “At the end of the day we weren’t in a position to make a trade that we were satisfied with.”
While the team failed in its attempt to add a veteran presence in the crease, Nonis added he’s comfortable with the tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens going forward.
Reimer has been one of Toronto’s best players in 2013, compiling a 13-4-4 record with two shutouts to go along with 2.52 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. Scrivens, meanwhile, is 7-8-0 with a 2.59 GAA and a .918 save percentage. He also has two shutouts.
“The benefit of bringing Miikka Kiprusoff in would have been that we weren’t moving either one of our goalies out,” Nonis said. “We’ve always said that if we could get a veteran presence to help these guys along and give them some experience and some tips, that it would have been an ideal situation.”
Nonis added that he discussed that scenario with Kiprusoff directly.
“I think part of him was very excited with that and part of his apprehension was not having his heart in it 100 per cent and coming here and letting us down,” he said. “That was the direction we wanted to head.
“(But) we also said last week, and weeks prior to that, that we’re happy with the goaltending, that we have two quality goalies and we’re not trying to move one out.”
Speaking in Calgary, Flames general manager Jay Feaster told the media that although the club is in rebuilding mode after the trade of captain Jarome Iginla, it would respect the 36-year-old Kiprusoff’s wish not to be moved because of what he has done for the franchise.
Kiprusoff said he put a lot of thought into the possibility of playing for Toronto, but that he wanted to finish the season with the Flames.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do for the Leafs to go there if my heart is not 100 per cent there,” said Kiprusoff.
Kiprusoff has one year left on his contract with a salary cap hit of more than US$5.8 million, but is only scheduled make $1.5 million in actual money next season.
In O’Byrne, the Maple Leafs acquired a steady, if not flashy, blue-liner who fits head coach Randy Carlyle’s rough-and-tumble style.
The six-foot-five, 234-pound Victoria native had one goal, three assists and 54 penalty minutes in 34 games with the Avalanche this season. He also led the Avalanche in blocked shots last season with 141.
“He’s not going to come in here and take over the defensive corps. He’s a defensive defenceman. We feel he can play with good players,” Nonis said. “We have 12 games left and we wanted to make sure that we weren’t in a position where we were short on defence. We were very comfortable with him as a player and as a person.”
An unrestricted free agent this summer, the 28-year-old O’Byrne has four goals, 33 assists and 363 penalty minutes in 300 career NHL games with Montreal and Colorado.
Nonis said he was close on a couple of other deals that could have helped a Maple Leafs team that is relatively thin on playoff experience.
“Those players are pretty hard to come by. There’s a couple that had playoff experience but weren’t capable of helping us,” he said. “The one thing a player with experience has to be able to do is get into the lineup, otherwise he’s not going to be able to help you.”
Note: The Leafs also announced the signing of defenceman Andrew MacWilliam to a two-year entry level contract. The 23-year-old was selected by Toronto in the seventh round, 188th overall, of the 2008 draft. The 6-2, 230-pound Calgary native played 163 games over four seasons with North Dakota in the NCAA, collecting 31 points on four goals and 27 assists with 327 penalty minutes and a plus-37 rating.