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Why Did Toronto Trade Garret Sparks to Vegas?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

While there’s no question who’s the number one goaltender in Las Vegas, talking heads in Eastern Canada are busy speculating if goalie Garret Sparks can someday be the numero uno on an NHL team.

“It’s very possible. Based on what I saw last year, I don’t think he has that potential. This is a guy who’s had great success in the minor league. He came into a very pressured situation in Toronto… he was thrown into a role, maybe a role he wasn’t ready for.”-Carlo Colaiacovo, Former NHL’er and analyst on TSN 690 Montreal

Sparks was acquired earlier this month via trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for a fourth round pick and David Clarkson’s dead money.

On surface it looked like a minor move to create some financial wiggle room for each team. What was lost in the deal was the expectations Vegas may or may not have for Sparks. We know George McPhee doesn’t like leaving a swap meet without a bargain, maybe the backup from Toronto was more than an impulse buy.

“With Dubas being a Sparks guy, because he had him in the minors. He groomed him. You never thought it would be a possibility but clearly he was a guy that they were willing to part with.”-Colaiacovo

For the past two seasons, when healthy Malcolm Subban has been Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup. Subban is 25-years-old and has never started more than 20 games in a season. Sparks is a little older and has less experience but let’s face it, he was brought in to compete for Fleury’s relief role. Like he did last year in Toronto. After a hot start to the season the former Maple Leaf created buzz around the fan base.

Here’s an excerpt from an article written last week by SportsNet’s Mike Johnston:

Sparks made 20 appearances this past season. During his first 10 outings the Elmhurst, Ill., native went an impressive 6-2-1 despite posting a less-than-stellar .905 save percentage.

In early January, though, he took a puck off his head at practice that resulted in a concussion and his season went downhill from there.

“I felt I was finally starting to build some momentum and get my chance,” Sparks said. “I just felt like I got cut down, and it’s hard to regrow after you get your progress chopped off like that.”

His final 10 appearances were rough as he went 2-7-0 with a .899 save percentage and eventually wore out his

Sparks couldn’t avoid injuries, especially recovering from a concussion occurred at Leafs practice. However, things didn’t get better for the backup down the stretch. The buzz around Sparks wasn’t all good, in fact, it could’ve been a reason why he was dealt.

“I think where the Garrett Sparks conversation of possibly moving on from the Maple Leafs started to happen was a game… the Ottawa Senators blew them out and Sparks came out and scrutinized his teammates. Saying he needs more from them, it’s not good enough, they need more of a push, they need to play with more urgency. Sometimes that type of message from a backup goalie who is showing his own struggles doesn’t sit well with people in the organization. Probably didn’t sit well with Babcock, probably didn’t sit well organization, probably didn’t sit well with the players.”-Colaiacovo. TSN 690 Montreal

Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas may have had confidence in Sparks ability but the goalie’s mid-March rant made it easy to move on from the backup. By acquiring Sparks, you’d have to assume McPhee and his scouts have the same level of confidence.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With some success in Toronto, Sparks could get his chance with Vegas. After all, he’s the first goalie in Maple Leafs history to post a shutout in his first NHL start. Pretty cool huh? Let’s hope he learned from his media mistakes, stays healthy and impresses the coaching staff in camp. In reality Subban or Sparks are not the ideal future replacements for Fleury, but a healthy competition in camp is good way to assess or address the future.

As you can tell, this is post-Gusev, dead zone content and I could be entirely wrong. Maybe Sparks was tipped off and he’s already purchased a custom Chicago Wolves mask.


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  1. Lynn Romano

    Great article, Jason! Who doesn’t love some healthy competition for the back up position?! Can’t wait to see him in action and see what he can do.

    • Cody

      Leading a team to an AHL championship is more than Subban has ever done.

  2. Unfortunately, isn’t it just as likely that we lose Sparks when we place him on waivers to start the year?

    • Cody

      Not if he beats Subban for the spot (very possible). Malkie regressed last year. See if he even makes it through camp without getting hurt.

  3. Cody

    Anybody on the Leafs would want more defensively. God they are terrible. Believe Lehner left Buffalo in a similar fashion. Also not uncommon for goalies to get a shutout their first game and then tail off. So many intangibles that first one. Idk why people are so worried about Gusev, this team is one of the best in the west. You really want to dismantle the whole team to fit in a headcase Russian who’s never played in the NHL? Also footspeed. I’d rather have Reaves and some room to add at the deadline.

  4. Murphy

    Met Sparks on vacation in Wakefield, NH this past Tuesday. He said he plays for the Bruins and is from Boston, he certainly has the accent, so I am so confused…. Can you clarify? Love some tickets to see him play in Boston. Nice guy socially.

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