As we go through the list of Leafs free agents it seems that Frederik Andersen is the one that is almost universally accepted as the non-rental player most likely to be swiftly shown the door this summer. It’s a shame that Andersen, the goaltender who provided the Leafs with the most consistent stretch of goaltending during this century isn’t getting a chance to head out on a high note. Instead the Leafs kept him one season to long, and he was forced to become the villain.
Let’s focus on the villainous season of Freddie Andersen, which was essentially a story in four parts…
|January||The Slow Start||8||5||0.892||3.01|
|February||Redemption ending in injury||8||6||0.918||2.38|
|March||Playing through the pain for the team||7||2||0.876||3.42|
|May||The tragic end||1||0||0.857||4.04|
While it could be a simple as Andersen rushing back for a second time in the season, or having his confidence shaken by the unfortunate twists of this season, the performance was enough that we didn’t see Andersen in the playoffs this year, and the net was given to Campbell, despite his own injury challenges.
Of course, there’s also this…
Pierre LeBrun on Insider Trading says there is a chance Frederik Andersen stays in TOR.
Says Andersen’s agent spoke with management & the question they got was… “is Andersen interested in potentially re-signing & staying put & the answer was yes.”#LeafsForever
— Joseph Zita (@josephdzita) June 29, 2021
Now we can make a case that an extended summer might give Andersen enough time to recover before starting up again in October. We can make the case for Andersen likely not requiring a lot of money if the Leafs wanted to bring him back on a prove yourself deal, but these things don’t align with reality, and don’t consider the fact that his playoff inconsistency already had people more than happy to move on from him even when he was one of the top regular season goaltenders. There’s also the reality of how teams evaluate goaltenders, and the Braden Holtby contract in Vancouver last season proves that an experienced goaltender like Andersen can still get paid as teams take their chances on their team being the right fit despite the evidence showing that Andersen is struggling. Hey, Mike Smith figured it out at 38, seemingly. Or at least until the playoffs.
The reality is there are teams that will offer Andersen more than the Leafs will, and there’s no risk of Dubas getting in a bidding war to keep Andersen. There’s also the fact that Andersen’s best hockey was under Babcock coached teams. There’s a chance that the change in style under Keefe has left his weaknesses more exposed and Toronto is no longer right for him and he’s no longer right for Toronto.
Still, it feels like there should be a “name our price” component to this, and try to figure out what it would take in order to give Andersen another chance. And for the Leafs it would probably begin and end with a one year deal. It also seems like he’d have to come in under $2M, and no matter what the Leafs do, it seems like they are leaving themselves exposed with Jack Campbell (still somewhat unproven, and has concerning recent injuries), Andersen (coming off a bad injury season, downturn in results, and no evidence of recovering), Michael Hutchinson (who is a perfectly fine third string guy to use if necessary, but you don’t want him to be any more than that), and Joseph Woll (who just isn’t ready for anything beyond the AHL at this point.)
Nope. That’s too many question marks for a team that is supposed to be competitive, and will have to be competitive in a division that is going to be a lot tougher to pick up wins in than the North Division. Unfortunately the Leafs need a good Plan B to Campbell, and Andersen is going to want a team that believes in him, not one that is giving him one last chance.
For selfish personal reasons, this is good news. Picking up a bunch of heavily discounted Andersen merchandise has a lot of appeal to me, and that will be part of my plans this August. For the Leafs, there are options, but those options are not only going to be a bit more expensive if they go the free agent route, but also involve some question marks. There’s also the matter of if the Leafs sign someone with worse numbers than Campbell to a higher cap hit, they are essentially setting a higher price for themselves with Campbell’s next contract. Trades make sense.
For Andersen, there’s no shortage of teams that will look at him as an option and they are comfortable paying more than the Leafs will be. The Penguins and Oilers seem to be mentioned the most at this point, but that’s by no means the list. Rather than dwell on what went wrong with Andersen over the past year and a half, I’ll leave it at thanking him for being a huge part of why the Leafs were back in the playoffs as soon as they were and for keeping the team afloat in the final days of Babcock. Andersen was a good goalie, hopefully the Leafs find another one.