Over at Pension Plan Puppets yesterday, they wondered what kind of contract the Leafs should give Jonas Gustavsson. The thinking there is that Gustavsson’s being named the starter so the Leafs can find out what they have in them, and that is undoubtedly one of the biggest questions the Leafs have to answer before the year ends.

After guessing at what the Gustavsson camp is looking for, considering the RFA situation and establishing more or less where Gustavsson sits as an NHL goaltender, PPP came to the following conclusion:

I’d say a fair offer at this point for Gustavsson would be a shorter term deal, 2-3 years at between $1.5M and $1.75M. That’s a decent raise that’s probably more than he’d get in arbitration at this rate and gives him a chance to prove that he’s worth more money to a club right around the time he’s 28.

The idea that Gustavsson’s contract will be inflated because the Leafs have no one else in the system should be ignored. If Gustavsson’s not the guy then it doesn’t matter who’s in the system the Leafs are going to lose with or without him. A short second contract gives him the opportunity to prove that he is “the guy”.

The contract range suggested here is a good guess, although I personally feel that the Leafs should probably opt for a one-year deal instead. I say that because the goaltending market seems to have hit an era of depression, and there’s no point in signing a guy who is still a question mark to a long-term contract, particularly given that the Leafs’ best option next year is to bring in a guy who can split time with Gustavsson (adding some built-in insurance).

The second paragraph quoted above is also spot-on. Alex Auld went for a sixth-round pick this summer, Jason Labarbera went for a seventh-round pick at last year’s trade deadline, and there are a ton of these 1B guys out there – all of whom are comparable in terms of performance to Gustavsson at this stage of his career.

To try and find comparables for Gustavsson, I went to CapGeek and took their list of contracts signed since June 30, and whittled it down to a list of goaltenders who might fit in as a broad set of comparables. Here’s the list; save percentage is from last season and age is from the start of this season:

Player Age NHL SV% Years MM/Yr.
Jonathan Quick 23 0.914 3 1.8
Brian Elliott 24 0.902 2 0.85
Josh Harding 25 0.929 1 1.1
Yann Danis 28 0.910 1 0.5
Kari Lehtonen 26 0.911 1 3
Antero Niittymaki 29 0.912 1 0.6
Jason Labarbera 29 0.901 2 1
Craig Anderson 28 0.924 2 1.813
Peter Budaj 27 0.899 1 1.25
Jonas Gustavsson 26 0.900    

The closest resemblances here, numbers-wise, are Peter Budaj, Jason Labarbera and Brian Elliott, with Budaj’s $1.25 million contract reflecting his extensive NHL experience. Based on this list, I don’t see much reason for the Leafs to move far away from the $1.0 million figure, although given the amount of hype surrounding Gustavsson it wouldn’t surprise me if his actual contract ends up in the range predicted over at Pension Plan Puppets.