Aaron Dell makes things interesting in net for the Leafs

It can’t be a coincidence that not 10 hours have gone by since The Leafs Nation posted an article on third string goalies and highlighting Aaron Dell as the superior option that the Leafs went out and signed Aaron Dell to a one year $800k contract.

Wait, I’m being told it can absolutely be considered a coincidence, or at the very least us stating the obvious doesn’t count as some brilliant insight that Kyle Dubas couldn’t do without.

Anyways, Aaron Dell was far and away the best free agent goaltender available. You could make a case that he was a better option than guys like Braden Holtby or Henrik Lundqvist (at this stage of their careers) and stating that he is better than Mike Smith again feels like stating the obvious, but nevertheless it’s enjoyable that the Leafs third string goaltender is better than the first string guy on the Oilers.

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At a quick glance, this was excellent business by Kyle Dubas, and after years of having nowhere to look after Andersen, the Leafs find themselves three deep with quality NHL netminders. Dell is probably a cut above being a third string guy, and there in lies the intrigue.

Here are Dell’s basic stats:

2016-17 27 20 17 11 6 1 37 533 496 0.931 2 1 1111
2017-18 28 29 22 15 5 4 67 775 708 0.914 2.64 2 1522
2018-19 29 25 20 10 8 4 70 613 543 0.886 3.17 2 1323
2019-20 30 33 30 12 15 3 92 986 894 0.907 3.01 0 1834
Career 107 89 48 34 12 266 2907 2641 0.908 2.76 5 5790

Generally a pretty solid track record, with an unfortunate blip in 2018-19. Here are the fancier numbers…

All Situation Sv% Even Strength Scoring Chance Metrics
Season QS QS% GSAA adjGAA ES SV % PP SV % SH SV % xGA scSA scGA sc SV% HDscSA HDscGA HDsc SV%
2016-17 12 0.706 9.13 2.32 0.946 0.839 0.75 34.1 219 16 0.927 62 12 0.806
2017-18 11 0.5 1.02 2.84 0.916 0.889 0.962 50.4 325 40 0.877 92 20 0.783
2018-19 6 0.3 -14.75 3.4 0.899 0.798 0.923 44.1 275 43 0.844 56 13 0.768
2019-20 15 0.5 -2.84 3.21 0.909 0.886 0.923 71.1 490 65 0.867 170 36 0.788
Career 44 0.494 -8.2 2.98 0.916 0.861 0.911 199.7 1309 164 0.875 380 81 0.787

Again, a really bad 2018-19 seems to be what sticks out for Dell. His 2019-20 numbers are solid, especially considering how bad the Sharks were, and he did a solid job of taking over the net for no longer usable Martin Jones.

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This begs a couple of questions.

  1. This guy is pretty darn good, how on earth is he going to clear waivers?

    I honestly don’t have a good answer for that, but somehow goaltenders consistently find their way down to the AHL. If the Leafs think they can get Dell to the Marlies, that will be very fortunate, if not they will be looking for a new third string option very early in the season.

  2. This guy seems pretty good, Campbell seems pretty good, and while neither of them are as proven or good as Freddie Andersen, is there an appeal to having a $2.45M goaltender tandem and trading Andersen for an asset?

    Well, the answer should be that teams should embrace depth, and not run from it. Dell certainly affords the Leafs the opportunity to explore what is out there for Andersen, but the idea of actively shopping him because of Dell is probably absurd. This is arguably the best goaltending situation the Leafs have been in since the 2005 lockout, so maybe we enjoy it.

    Of course, we have to think about the other option, and that is Campbell and Dell have both proven capable of handling a 30 game workload in a season. There is a very good chance that this will be a shortened season with numerous back to backs. It is very possible these two can get it done, and the player or futures plus cap space that Andersen would give the Leafs allows for a meaningful upgrade elsewhere on the roster.

The reality of the situation is the Leafs landed themselves a great third string option. A goaltender who may have to put in his time for a year before finding his way back to the NHL fulltime. Maybe Dell sees himself as capable of pushing past Campbell for the backup job. It’s also entirely possible that Dell is auditioning for a tandem with Campbell once Andersen’s contract expires after this season, and the Leafs want to see what they have in him. Whatever the motivations, Dell was a great pickup for Toronto.

Stats used from Hockey-Reference.com

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