The Toronto Maple Leafs made a rather surprising move this week when they made the acquisition of former Toronto Maple Leaf David Clarkson by trading away veteran backup goaltender Garrett Sparks to the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The move was surprising if only because Sparks was viewed by many as the likely backup for Maple Leafs' starting goaltender Frederik Andersen.
The move was also damning condemnation of how the Maple Leafs internally viewed Sparks moving forward. Sure the acquisition of Clarkson, a player who will never play another game in the National Hockey League, has allowed them to save space against the salary cap but all they really got in return for the backup goalie was a fourth round draft selection in 2020. So one has to wonder why the Maple Leafs felt that Sparks had to go, you would certainly be hard pressed to argue that his $750,000 in salary was money that the Maple Leafs absolutely needed to shed. This becomes especially true when you realize that another player, and therefore another salary, will have to fill the hole left by Sparks in the line up.
Well we may now have some indication of why Sparks had to go, and it sounds like his issues off the ice may have played as much of a role as his play on the ice. In a recent article for the Toronto Sun, Toronto reporter Steve Simmons shared some details about the Sparks deal that should raise some eyebrows, assuming they are correct of course. Due to Simmons' reputation for sometimes publishing questionable information we're going to qualify this one as merely a rumor for the time being.
Garret Sparks lost his place with the Maple Leafs because of wonky play but more because of a lack of self-awareness. One was not necessarily related to the other, but the combination of poor play and a lack of comprehension of his place with the team meant he was first removed from the Leafs dressing room (a highly unusual move) and this week traded to Vegas in that mystery deal for what remains of David Clarkson’s contract.
The fact that Sparks was uncermoniously ushered out of the Leafs locker room prior to the trade does speak volumbes about this particular deal. For those of you who were left scratching your head at this trade, Simmons may have provided the motivation for this deal that everyone was looking for.