No one outside the Maple Leafs management suite will know how close the team came to acquiring Roberto Luongo but when the horn blew on trade deadline day everybody wearing blue was where they were the day before.
The only new body coming in is six-foot-five depth defenceman Ryan O’Byrne, gleaned from Colorado for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 entry draft. A 28-year-old right-handed defenceman who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, O’Byrne is a stay-at-home type who has 300 NHL games, four goals and 363 penalty minutes.
Leafs GM Dave Nonis said inquiring about Miikka Kiprusoff was never about usurping Reimer or back-up Ben Scrivens. After speaking with the veteran Calgary goalie both parties decided that Kiprusoff’s heart was still in Calgary.
“We need more than one goalie,” Nonis said. “There’s a lot to be said about learning from some people if that’s an option. If not there’s other ways of doing it.
“We weren’t crushed today that we weren’t able to get Kiprusoff to come because we felt comfortable with the guys here.”
The question, of course, is whether by kicking the tires, at least on Kiprusoff, the Leafs have undermined incumbent James Reimer.
I doubt it.
Reimer is the accidental goalie. He has never had a perch to be knocked off of.
He didn’t play organized hockey until he was 12. Reimer was twice cut by the Red Deer Rebels who chose him in the fifth round in the WHL draft. He won seven of 34 games in his rookie year in the Western League and didn’t bother to attend his entry draft where the Leafs surprised many by choosing him the fourth round. Ten goalies were chosen ahead of him.
He played well as a rookie in Toronto but endured a disastrous sophomore season as a result of injury.
In short, he has spent most of his pro career as an underdog. If anything, he should feel more secure now than ever.
It’s not as if Reimer hit the trade deadline on the skids. He’s gone seven games without a regulation loss and surrendered just 13 goals in that span.
He is 13-4-4 with a .920 goals against average, 13th best in the league.
O’Byrne, meanwhile, was drafted in the third round of the 2003 entry draft by the Montreal Canadiens.
The Leafs were looking for more size on the blue line.
“Toronto’s a team that’s right in the mix I’m really exciting to be going to there,” he said.
“From my days in Montreal I enjoyed playing in Toronto.”
O’Byrne seems a perfect mix for the hulking defenceman preferred by coach Randy Carlyle.
“I play hard, play physical, try to do the dirty things,” O’Byrne said. “I’m looking forward to playing for him.”
“He’s going to be one of our eight defencemen,” Nonis said. “He’s not going to come in here and take over the defensive core. He’s a defensive defenceman.
“We feel that he can play with good players, with John-Michael Liles, a (Jake) Gardiner, a (Mike) Kostka. Those are the likely pairings but that will be a Randy Carlyle decision.”