There’s been a lot of talk recently about a trade that would send Frederik Andersen out the door and I have to be honest, I just don’t think that works out for the Leafs. Ever.
The speculation started with a 31 Thoughts article (thought #19), where Elliotte Friedman wrote: “The Carolina Hurricanes have interest in Frederik Andersen, but Toronto’s made it clear it has no desire to make a move just for the sake of change.”
This sparked Leafs Twitter to start drafting up mock trades with some that could work, others, in my opinion, not so much. Andersen as we know is going into the last year of his five year, $25-million deal. What makes him interesting to a lot teams is that his salary is only $1 million because his signing bonus of $4 million has already been paid out.
A lot of teams are going to have to find ways to save money after COVID-19 hit their pockets so hard. With no fans in the arenas and the cap staying flat, there will be teams with a lot of money and teams with not much money that will be scrambling to make ends meet.
Which is why Andersen is on the Leafs list of trades to make and why he’s on a lot of teams’ lists to buy. Obviously, Kyle Dubas isn’t going to make a trade, just to make a trade. But with all that’s out there in free-agent goaltenders, he’s got to at least look into it, which we now know he’s doing.
I’m struggling to find ways to believe any trade that sends Andersen out gets you a good net-minder in return (via trade or free agency). What I’m not struggling with though is the reasons why the Leafs should hold onto him for the last year of his contract and maybe send some other pieces out to upgrade your defence instead.
Reason #1 – Another Goaltender
The biggest topic of discussion when it comes to trading Andersen is that you could acquire a better goaltender in the free-agent market. Some believe the Leafs could land Robin Lehner this fall, but I don’t believe that’s the right path to go down.
Why are the Leafs looking into trading Andersen? His value, yes. But also, his age.
He’s 31 in October and you hear some say on Twitter, “he’s getting old!” Sure, that’s a solid argument you could give on why you should trade him, but Lehner is also a 29-year-old. His numbers have been great, but does Kyle Dubas want to bring in another aging goaltender? I don’t think so.
Let’s look at it from Lehner’s perspective, though. He’s nearing 30, and since playing with the Buffalo Sabres in the 2017-18 season, Lehner has been on a different team in each of the last three years. The 29-year-old is also married and has two children which could possibly have him wanting a long-term future rather than a short-term one.
And after that, there’s not much left out there. Sure, you could try and sign Jacob Markstrom if he becomes a free agent, but some believe he will stay in Vancouver. Even if he was to hit free agency, he’s 30 too and he’s definitely not getting any younger.
The same goes for Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford. Then that leaves you with Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry or Alexandar Georgiev — all net-minders who haven’t put up consistent numbers like Andersen in the last three seasons.
You’d also have to think one of Murray or Jarry gets re-signed by Pittsburgh before they get to free agency. And who knows, maybe they sign both of them.
The Leafs and Dubas would be better off with keeping Andersen this year. Trading for a defenceman that they direly need will allow the workload to diminish a little bit, while also giving Jack Campbell some time in the net, too.
Reason #2 – A Better Defence
Toronto’s biggest problem isn’t goaltending, it’s their defence. If they want to make a significant step in the playoffs next season, Dubas needs to find a right-shot option that fits into their top-four.
He’s said there’ll be more trades, but didn’t reference where those changes would come. If it does come from trading Andreas Johnsson, Alexander Kerfoot and their first-round pick, there could be a decent return. Possibly one that strengthens their defence significantly.
If Dubas does move a few pieces out for cap space, they could be more serious in signing Alex Pietrangelo, although talks with him and St. Louis have been continuing recently. And the Blues just moved out Jake Allen, which gives them an extra $4.35 million in cap space.
I believe the Leafs will be more willing to strengthen their defence before moving Andersen since that’s been a problem for a long time. If that happens, it’ll put less strain on Andersen’s workload and that should come with more success.
Reason #3 – A Full Season Under Sheldon Keefe
If the Leafs can acquire a stable defence core without losing out on their depth, this team will have significant success next season — especially with a fresh start under Sheldon Keefe. A lot of last season’s woes came from former head coach, Mike Babcock, who caused a lot of problems in and out of the dressing room.
From what we learned about what happened to Mitch Marner after Babcock’s departure, to him making Jason Spezza a healthy scratch in the home opener, it was a season that went sour, quick.
Even after that, with a pandemic that shut the NHL down for five months, there was no good that came out of this season. Once you give Keefe a full season to implement structure, hire his own assistant coaches and have a stable defence core, it gives them all the right pieces for success.
Then you have a stable team in front of you, who’s not giving up leads or playing inconsistent hockey — Andersen’s success rate goes up, significantly. We all know Dubas though. He and the Leafs are likely thinking outside of the box for both positions and they’ll probably pull something off that we’re not thinking of.
So – What’s the Bottom Line?
Next season’s success is based on this off-season. It’s time for the Leafs to go all-in and Dubas understands that. It’s just a matter of executing the right plan, and with his resume, it seems like he and Keefe know what the plan is and how to move forward.
If that plan includes moving Andersen, I trust it. But I just don’t believe that they execute order-66 and bring in a goaltender whose numbers aren’t as strong.