Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending Need Addressed Ahead of Free Agency

Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ main goaltending need ahead of free agency has been addressed. Their offseason “To Do” list is a lengthy one, but general manager Kyle Dubas made a critical move to begin changes to the team’s roster before the start of training camp in September. Much more work will need to be done within the next couple of weeks, but give Dubas credit for taking an important first step to building his team.

The team just addressed its goaltending situation by acquiring Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators. This was the Leafs’ most significant offseason need. Now, the focus should shift to signing a couple of key restricted free agents, and adding some depth to the third and fourth-line forward units. Adding some insurance outside of the top six defensemen should also be considered. As it stands now, the Leafs have approximately $6 million in salary-cap space to work with. Not ideal, but let’s explore how they should go about handling their remaining business.

Leafs’ Address Their Most Important Need

It’s rather obvious to point out that solidifying the goaltending position was the most important offseason need of the Leafs. They or their fans did not want to enter next season with Erik Kallgren and Joseph Woll in the net for an otherwise solid roster. The recent trade of Petr Mrazek created a little more flexibility to address this need. The options were becoming limited, but the trade for Murray helps stabilize their goaltending.

The third and seventh-round draft picks acquired are unlikely to amount to anything, but the Senators agreeing to retain some salary was important. Murray’s average annual value will come in around $4.7 million. It is doubtful that free agent goalies Jack Campbell or Darcy Kuemper will sign deals with a lower AAV than Murray’s. If the Leafs were completely confident in Campbell a deal would have likely already been completed. Instead, they were proactive rather than wait and see what team was left standing without a goalie after the free agency circus.

Trade For Murray a Calculated Risk

Many will not like this trade from a Leafs’ perspective, however, there are no surefire solutions remaining in the market for goaltending. Campbell is looking for his opportunity to cash in. Rightfully so, as this is his last chance at a large deal. Kuemper is now a Stanley Cup champion, but will also be looking to up the ante because of it. Playing in front of the “Harlem Globetrotters on Ice” has also inflated his value.

Murray struggled with performance and injuries in Ottawa. Playing with the young, rebuilding Senators did not help, but he is still relatively young and had a great start to his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Campbell and Kuemper are both over thirty, and complacency can sometimes set in after large free-agent contracts are signed. Murray may find a comfort level playing for Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe thanks to their history with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Also, with two years remaining on his deal, Murray will be motivated to prove himself. Ideally, for both the team and the player, he plays well and earns an extension.

Time will tell if the move pans out, but at least Dubas took charge of the situation. He didn’t wait to see where the dominoes fell in free agency.

Leafs Must Sign Sandin and Engvall

With the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending issues addressed, the team can focus on their next priority. The Leafs have to get restricted free agents Rasmus Sandin and Pierre Engvall signed. Their depth on defence is the strongest it has been in years. But, key contributors Jake Muzzin, Mark Giordano, and TJ Brodie are well past the age of thirty. Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, the two most recent first-round picks in the Leafs’ lineup, inject some youth into the “D” corps. Sandin must get signed to a reasonable bridge deal and take the next step in his development.

Engvall took a step ahead in his development last year. He became an important penalty-killer and a key member of the third line. In addition, he started to show some finish around the net, scoring 15 goals. With the almost certain departure of Ilya Mikheyev and Ondrej Kase, Engvall will be relied upon even more next year.

Last Step: Supplement Roster Depth

After getting their goaltending and restricted free-agents situations addressed, the Leafs’ last step is to add depth. This is the least critical piece to their offseason maneuverings. Find some veterans to play for the league minimum to add competition for fourth-line roles or jobs as the seventh or eighth defenceman. Perhaps, as soon as this season, previous draft picks Nick Robertson and Nick Abruzzese will become regulars in the lineup. Toronto Marlies such as Joey Anderson might also play their way onto the team.

Now that the Leafs have Murray secured in goal they and their fans can exhale and feel better looking ahead to next season. An important first step to the offseason has been taken. Although, there are rumblings the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending situation is not completely resolved.