It has never been tough to assess what the Toronto Maple Leafs need.
A number once centre. A front-line goalie. Depth on defence. A big body to put in front of the net. A strong faceoff man to anchor the third line and kill penalties. A potent second line.
While the Leafs are a long mile short of Stanley Cup contender status, it’s become much harder to pin down exactly what kind of wish list the team should have.
Winning will do that. The Leafs, idle until Thursday when they play Philadelphia, are 20-12-4 with a dozen games left to play. That puts them sixth in the east and a plush nine points out of a tie for eighth place.
The Leafs are fourth in the league in goals per game, ninth in five-on-five differential, 14th on the power play and fourth in the penalty kill.
The team’s goals against is an entirely palatable 2.67, right in the middle of the NHL pack. Number one netminder James Reimer is 13-4-4 with a 2.52 goals against and .920 save percentage.
What’s not to like?
Cody Franson and Mark Fraser have established themselves as a capable third pairing. Mike Kostka and Carl Gunnarsson have steadied their game and Dion Phaneuf gives the Leafs the benchmark time-eating defenceman every team craves.
Jay McClement has emerged as a solid utilityman and a viable second option to Tyler Bozak in the face-off circle.
The Leafs have cleverly found a way to spring Phil Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Bozak on secondary checkers thanks to the standout play of their de facto first line of Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin. Kadri sits sixth in league scorers with more points than Eric Staal, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux and Pavel Datsyuk. For now, the number one centre question seems solved.
But if the Pittsburgh Penguins have enough holes to justify three high-profile trades, everyone else figures to have more.
The Leafs, of course, are not in the same weight class as the Penguins. They are in the in-between stage where they won’t trade current NHLers for draft picks but seem unlikely to dip too deeply into their prospect pool to snare short-term help.
All this brings us to one name, at least one name that makes sense: Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
At 36, Kiprusoff is a better bet than Roberto Luongo because he has just one more year on his contract. He is playoff-tested and his arrival would leave room for Reimer to continue his apprenticeship.
There are complications. No one really knows who is or isn’t in the market for a goalie. It’s unknown whether Kiprusoff wants to leave Calgary and what his future salary demands would be should he acquiesce to a trade.
But for the Leafs, Kirprusoff is the best possible option because he won’t cost a king’s ransom and is still capable of winning a round on his own. His availability and willingness to write a new chapter in his career will make for fascinating viewing.