The Toronto Maple Leafs signing of Michal Neuvirth to a professional tryout was thought to be another sign that Garret Sparks would not be back as the club’s backup next season and that was confirmed on Tuesday, as the Leafs sent the 25-year-old goaltender to the Vegas Golden Knights for a 2020 fourth round pick and the contract of forward David Clarkson.
Sparks went 8-9-1, with a 3.15 GAA and .902 save percentage in 20 games for the Leafs last season, but his career in Toronto was essentially over with when he was replaced as the backup to Frederik Andersen by Michael Hutchinson in the playoff series against Boston.
Clarkson, 35, last played an NHL game in March 2016 after suffering a career-ending injury and has one year left on the seven-year, $36.75 Million contract signed with Toronto in 2013.
The Twittersphere went slightly bonkers earlier this month when Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander announced that he was changing his jersey number from 29 to 88, a move that would have been blocked by former GM Lou Lamoriello for his disdain of high numbers, but that received the blessing of Hall of Famer Eric Lindros (the only Leaf to every wear quatre-vingt huit).
On Monday, new Leaf defenseman Tyson Barrie revealed that he will wear #94 next season, a number worn previously by forwards Sergei Berezin (1997-2001) and Yanic Perreault (2007)
Barrie will not be the highest numbered defenseman in club history, that honor goes to Hall-of-Famer and former Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley, who wore #96 in his one regular season and three playoff games with the Leafs in 2003.
Rasmus Sandin is considered the top prospect in the Leafs organization, but in a list of the league’s Top 50 NHL prospects from the Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, the 19-year-old blueliner ranked 42nd overall and 15th among defensemen.
Sandin had 28 points (6 goals, 22 assists) in 44 AHL games for the Toronto Marlies and led the club in defensive scoring during the Calder Cup Playoffs with 10 assists in 13 games.
Wheeler indicated that Sandin’s rise to playing on the top pairing at 18 was a remarkable feat, but that he does projects more as a second pairing defensemen at the NHL level and not a top-pairing blueliner.
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