TORONTO– The Toronto Marlies will be heading into Wednesday’s tilt against the visiting Lake Erie Monsters with a make-shift tandem between the pipes.
Mark Owuya is expected to get his first start in 16 games while prospect Garret Sparks, who was just signed to an amateur contract after finishing up his junior season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm, is most likely to back up.
Drew MacIntyre, who was on an AHL contract, signed an NHL deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, leaving the Marlies temporarily without their veteran keeper.
Because of his new NHL contract the 29-year-old, who started the season in the KHL before breaking his ankle, has to clear waivers, which means he will be ineligible to play for the Marlies as they have an earlier than normal start time of 11am against the Monsters.
NHL clubs have until noon on Wednesday to claim him. If no one does it’s expected he will return to the Marlies.
MacIntyre previously started 15 of the Marlies last 20 games and had taken over the club’s Number-1 duties with his spectacular play. His relationship with Toronto goes back to 2007 when he played for the Manitoba Moose, who were then affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks. At that time current Leafs GM Dave Nonis ran the Canucks while goalie coach Rick St. Croix was also with Vancouver’s organization at the time.
Jussi Rynnas, who was supposed to be the club’s starter after Ben Scrivens joined the Maple Leafs in January, has struggled as the go-to guy and has been sidelined the last two weeks with an ankle injury. The timeline for his return is four to six weeks, which means he could be out the rest of the season based on how the Marlies post-season run goes.
The Marlies demoted Owuya to the Reading Royals of the ECHL on Monday and recalled him on Tuesday. While the timing of MacIntyre’s contract signing would seem a plausible reason for bringing the 23-year-old back up to the AHL, he was likely only sent down to get his name on Reading’s playoff roster anyway as the ECHL post-season lineups were due on Monday.
Owuya and Rynnas are both restricted free agents in July and neither has given the Marlies the same security in net as Scrivens or MacIntyre.
Currently second in the Western Conference, the Marlies want to make another push for the Calder Cup and MacIntyre’s numbers, 10-3-3 1.85 goals-against average .931 save percentage, show he will be the man if he isn’t claimed.
“When you have options like we have we are strong in the net, but we are in a results oriented business now,” said Marlies assistant coach Gord Dineen.
Sparks went 36-17-4 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .917 save percentage with the Storm during the regular season before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs to the Kitchener Rangers. He joined the Marlies on Monday.
The NHL trade deadline is 3pm on Wednesday and the Maple Leafs are rumoured to be searching for an upgrade with their goaltending situation. Any move they make could affect the Marlies.