With the playoffs officially underway and the Toronto Maple Leafs once again sent home early, we can begin to truly look forward to what could be considered a monumental offseason for the organization. And while most of the attention may end up (rightfully) focused on the pricey offensive group that was shutout twice by Joonas Korpisalo in their five game series against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the paper-mâché defensive group that saw Cody freakin’ Ceci play significant minutes, the questions surrounding this team do not end there.
It’s time to once again talk about Frederik Andersen and his future, or lack thereof, with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Andersen has become a contentious figure on Leafs Twitter lately, with seemingly half the fanbase rushing to defend yet another postseason failure as “not his fault” with the other pointing out that this is the fourth potential series clinching game that Andersen has played for the Blue & White and the result is a resounding zero wins and four losses, and that alone should at the very least justify the discussion of moving on. Cards on the table, I am full fledged in the latter of the two groups. While I will agree that the loss to Columbus does not rest squarely on his shoulders (or even mostly on his shoulders,) Frederik Andersen is part of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club, and if we’re going to argue that this team just doesn’t have what it takes to get over the hump or that changes need to be made, then we have to acknowledge that the team doesn’t just stop when we, like so many opposing teams for the last four seasons, get past the defense. The man between the pipes holds some responsibility in the Leafs misfortunes, and with just one year left on his contract, it isn’t inconceivable to think that the organization may look to recoup some assets (or address other issues) by trading someone who isn’t part of the long term future of this team. While quite a few teams appear to be set in goal for the foreseeable future, I’ve come up with five potential landing spots for Frederik Andersen should the Leafs look to trade him this coming offseason.
First things first, let’s lay out a couple of things. First being that I am basing this on nothing but a cursory glance around the league. I’m looking at teams that could potentially be in the hunt for an upgrade in net this offseason, and basing it off of that. There are no concrete rumors connecting these teams to Andersen. Second, I’m not looking to lay out an exact return, just baselines. If I suggest a defenseman comes back as part of the return, I’m not necessarily saying just the defenseman comes back. In that scenario, the Leafs and whoever I’m trading with would add accordingly. Third, any Andersen trade is contingent on his replacement already being brought it. For the sake of this thought experiment, we are operating under the idea that the Leafs have traded for, let’s say, Matt Murray just to name a name.
Now, let’s get started.
While they may have only made it into the Qualifying Round due to the expanded format, the Wild sat 10th in the Western Conference in overall points when play stopped in March, and were a mere point behind the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks, who were tied for the second Wild Card spot as far as points were concerned (and just three points behind the Winnipeg Jets, holders of the first Wild Card position.) The Wild were a sneakily decent offensive team in 2020, finishing 6th in the Western Conference in total goals for, but ended up with an even goal differential with 220 goals both for and against. They were also one of the league’s top defensive teams with their xGA/60 of 2.00 finishing tied with the Boston Bruins for tops in the league. Their downfall this season was goaltending, with a team 5v5 save% of .915 in the bottom half of the league at 19th overall. After a career year in 16/17 where he posted an overall save% of .923, Devan Dubnyk has declined every year since, with 19/20 being his worst year yet, as he finished the season with an .890 save% in just 30 games. The Wild turned to Alex Stalock in the playoffs, who didn’t fare any better, posting an .897 save% across Minnesota’s four game loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Why It Might Not Work: 2014 4th round draft selection Kaapo Kahkonen has been considered one of (if not the) top goaltending prospects in the NHL for quite some time now. He put up a strong showing in his second full AHL season, posting a .927 save% across his 34 games, as well as a solid .913 in 5 NHL appearances. If the 23 year old has done enough to show the organization that he’s ready for regular NHL starts, then Minnesota may just look inward for the solution to their goaltending woes.
Ideal Return: As much as I like the idea of someone like Jordan Greenway coming back, Minnesota has a lot of cap room to play with, having slightly over $16 million to spend this offseason, and as such, wouldn’t necessarily have to send salary the other way to complete a trade, so a straight return of draft picks isn’t out of the realm of possibility. As a result of the Jason Zucker trade, the Wild will have Pittsburgh’s first round pick in 2021 draft, giving them three first round picks in the next two drafts. Getting Andersen’s full cap hit off the books while adding another top 32 pick to a team that has traded away their last two would be beneficial.
Like the Minnesota Wild above, the Chicago Blackhawks only made it into this year’s playoffs due to the expanded format. Unlike Minnesota however, Chicago won their play-in qualifier against the 5th seed Edmonton Oilers and are currently in the midst of an opening round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Hawks are not as strong offensively or defensively as their divisional foes in Minnesota (their xGA/60 of 2.77 was the lowest in the league,) but they boast a strong young core including Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, and Alex DeBrincat to name a few. With Corey Crawford slated to hit free agency this offseason, Chicago could find themselves in the market for a starting goalie to help keep them in playoff contention next season in order to continue giving their young core vital experience.
Why It Might Not Work: Unlike Minnesota, Chicago finds themselves tight against the cap, with just slightly over $7 million available to sign Dylan Strome and the aforementioned Dominik Kublalik (a feat no doubt made more difficult with the rookie’s 30 goal season.) If pressed, the Blackhawks may opt to go with a cheaper option in goal in order to retain some of their offensive depth.
Ideal Return: A deal built around Connor Murphy may suit both teams. Murphy is signed at $3.85 million for the next two years, and could provide the Leafs a cost effective option to play alongside Morgan Rielly. Chicago would no doubt have to clear salary elsewhere, but a swap of Murphy for Andersen would only add $1.25 to their books for next season while also opening up a potential roster spot for prospect Ian Mitchell.
For the last few years, the narrative surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes has been that they were a good team that just needed to find some goaltending, and though the tandem of Petr Mrazek and old friend James Reimer was steady enough to keep the Hurricanes within striking distance of a top three spot of a crowded Metropolitan Division, most of the credit once again belongs to the stellar defense that plays in front of them. Though the Hurricanes appear to be doing just fine rotating between two mid tier starters, another playoff defeat at the hands of the Bruins could lead to a move to solidify the team between the pipes.
Why It Might Not Work: While the Hurricanes aren’t completely pressed against the cap, Andersen’s contract would take up the majority of the $9.14 million that they have, and with massive contracts due to Dougie Hamilton Andrei Svechnikov following next season, it’s much more likely we see them rolling their Mrazek/Reimer tandem for another season rather than trading assets for (and potentially dedicating money and term) to a marginal upgrade in net.
Ideal Return: Give us our draft pick back.
Cam Talbot has seemed to turn back to clock to his early days in Edmonton, posting a .919 save% throughout the regular season, leading to getting tasked with the starter’s role going into the playoffs, where he has so far been stellar for the Flames early on. The problem for Calgary is that Talbot becomes an unrestricted free agent once the playoffs end, and could potentially look for a permanent starter’s job elsewhere should Calgary not be willing to provide it.
Why It Might Not Work: The Flames currently sit with just under $17 million in cap space for next season, but are slated to lose four defensemen (TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Derek Forbert, and Erik Gustafsson) to unrestricted free agency, as well as facing pending RFA negotiations with Oliver Kylington, Andrew Mangiapane, and Mark Jankowski. While it is obviously doubtful all of the aforementioned return to Calgary next season, those are a lot of bodies to replace and cap space vanishes quickly.
Ideal Return: Some package of draft picks likely. The Leafs previously kicked tires on TJ Brodie when they were shopping Nazem Kadri last summer, but given he’s a free agent, that door is closed. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot here that’s too enticing to me as an outside observer that I can see Calgary willing to move.
San Jose Sharks
It’s no secret that the San Jose Sharks goaltending over the last two years has been abysmal to say the very least. Their 5v5 save% of .901 was worst in the league last season, and it was the second year in a row Martin Jones finished the season with a .896 save%, with said seasons being the first two years of a 6 year, $34.5 million contract the Sharks signed him to on July 1st 2017. The Sharks (surprisingly) have $14.88 million in cap space for next season, and don’t have many other holes that need patching. The 19/20 season may have been a disastrous one for San Jose, but with many aging players still signed to long term deals on the roster, a complete tear down and rebuild might not be a realistic option for the Sharks for another couple of seasons.
Why It Might Not Work: A large part of this being a potential option would rely on San Jose being willing to cut their losses and buy out Martin Jones. Buying out Jones so soon into his contract would provide some cap savings until 2024/25, and realistically speaking, a four year window might just be the most the Sharks could squeeze out of this current core.
Ideal Return: With the Leafs also potentially moving on from one (or both) of Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen this offseason, Kevin Lebanc is an intriguing option to fill a top nine wing role. Lebanc signed a cheap, one year, $1 million extension last summer to help the Sharks and it ended up costing him as the Sharks didn’t really put the savings to good use and Lebanc’s production dropped from 56 points in 2018/2019 to 33 points this past season. The Sharks would most certainly need to add a bit here, but Lebanc could be a feasible target for the Leafs in general this summer, so I’ll mention him here.
Goaltending in the NHL is always a hard thing to predict. Just a few seasons ago, it looked like Frederik Andersen was going to retire a Leaf, hopefully with a Cup ring or two, and judging by the sheer volume of shots he handled, more than likely a Conn Smythe somewhere along the way. Now, with a crucial offseason on the horizon and three crushing postseason failures in the rear view, even the man once considered the backbone of the team doesn’t feel 100% safe.
All salary figures courtesy of Puckpedia, statistics courtesy of Evolving-Hockey and Hockey Reference.