Yesterday, the presumptively weeks-long trade deadline got off to a booming start. Eric Staal‘s trade to Montreal should start a bevy of moves in the next few weeks. And while that’s certainly interesting (and very pertinent to the Leafs, as discussed here), it’s also never too early to start looking ahead towards the offseason. With Frederik Andersen‘s performance in goal this season likely costing him a contract extension, general manager Kyle Dubas’ attention will turn towards acquiring a name to serve as a tandem ‘minder with Jack Campbell. Campbell’s performance this year seems to have stabilized the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending situation somewhat. Yet there are many questions still to be answered about who the other name will be in 2021-22.
All salary cap data is courtesy of CapFriendly.com
Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending Situation Faces Uncertainty
Despite an injury that’s kept him out for most of this season, Mrazek is still a hot name around the league at the moment. He’s ranked 11th in the league in goals saved above expected (per MoneyPuck), even though he’s only played in four contests. With Alex Nedeljkovic rising up the ranks for the Carolina Hurricanes, it’s unlikely that Mrazek is a Hurricane past this season.
Mrazek’s put up respectable numbers since finding some stability in Carolina. In three seasons in the Carolina net, he’s got a 46-31-5 record. He also has a .911 save percentage. Mrazek is largely an average starter who’s had an amazing run to start the year. Will Mrazek’s value on the open market be under Andersen’s current $5 million cap hit? Most likely.
Toronto also shouldn’t be looking for a long-term solution. Even ignoring three semi-promising prospects in Joseph Woll, Ian Scott, and Artur Akhtyamov, it’s unwise in a flat-cap era to sink a bunch of cash into an ageing free agent goaltender. The Leafs will have the most success by capitalizing on value-heavy, short-term deals for goalies who can serve as a tandem. Mrazek currently offers a much better value proposition than Andersen. He’s an intriguing and affordable possibility should he hit free agency.
I mentioned Bernier as a potential trade candidate in a column last week. But even if the Leafs don’t make a move for a goalie at the deadline, Bernier could be a free-agent option.
Bernier is effectively Mrazek with a larger sample size. His last tenure in Toronto ended unceremoniously. He was moved out to make room for Andersen in the big picture. However, Bernier’s continued to do just fine with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s also on the injury list right now, like Mrazek. However, Bernier has put up an impressive .918 save percentage on a Detroit team that can still best be described as rubbish.
In terms of a potential contract, Bernier’s would likely be shorter than Mrazek’s with a comparable, if not lesser price. At age 32, Bernier has a few years on Mrazek and his injury history is slightly more of a concern. Regardless, he’s a good bet to play 40 games in a season along with Campbell. He’s putting up average (if not better) numbers too. And with Toronto emerging as one of the best defensive teams in this league, do you really need more than that?
A new face on the NHL scene has come out with a bang in his rookie year. After playing in 12 games with the Florida Panthers last year, Driedger’s made himself. He is becoming known as a reliable cushion for the inconsistent Sergei Bobrovsky. Pulling together a .923 save percentage in 14 contests this year. As a pending free agent, the Panthers likely won’t have the cap space to offer Driedger market value.
Testing the open market could likely drive Driedger’s value north of $2 or $3 million on a short-term prove-it deal. The Leafs would do well to cash in on that, as it could potentially be a great depth signing. He’s shown the ability in Florida to work in a tandem with a goalie who can’t necessarily play every night. Campbell’s injury history remains a concern.
Who ends up working with Jack Campbell this season remains a mystery. But there are options there for Kyle Dubas to explore that could end up being crucially cost-friendly for a cap-strapped team.
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