Having a third-string goaltender wouldn’t make sense for the Maple Leafs
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Barden7 months ago
The Maple Leafs don’t need a third-string goaltender, nor should they want one.
Toronto was in an interesting spot after being eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning — they seemed to have more freedom than they’d like with the goaltending position. With both @Jack Campbell and @Michael Hutchinson becoming free agents, and @Petr Mrazek barely playing last year, it was clear where the Maple Leafs were headed.
@Matt Murray and @Ilya Samsonov. Everyone definitely knew that was happening.
Both netminders have a compelling track record — Murray has won Stanley Cups but has battled many injuries — Samsonov was lights out in his first NHL season, yet hasn’t been able to follow it up since. There’s incredible risk with bringing these goaltenders in as the number one and two.
What if Murray gets hurt and has a similar season to Mrazek? What if Samsonov can’t find his footing in Toronto and fans begin to dislike him? These are all possible situations, and if they occur, Toronto might desire a third-string goaltender. However, that shouldn’t be the case, and here’s why.
Salary Cap Crunch
There are numerous reasons as to why that wouldn’t be a smart idea, beginning with the salary cap crunch the Maple Leafs are currently in.
As of right now, Toronto is over the cap by $1,493,116, meaning GM Kyle Dubas will need to waive a few players to become compliant. There just won’t be any room for them to sign a third-string goaltender and keep him in the NHL.
It’s worth noting, too, that @Rasmus Sandin still hasn’t signed with the team. When the two sides eventually get a deal done, there’ll likely need to be a trade to facilitate his cap hit. Having another goalie within the organization just wouldn’t make sense at this moment in time with the situation they’re in.
Toronto would be better off bringing one of their other goaltending prospects in @Joseph Woll or @Erik Kallgren up — similar to what the team did last year.
Full-Time AHL Goaltending
This was a problem for Toronto last year with Hutchinson being in the AHL. The Maple Leafs’ top two goalie prospects need experience to develop and they weren’t getting that with the 32-year-old sometimes getting the net.
At the time, it made sense with the situation they were in. There were too many injuries to count, and with Kallgren up with the Maple Leafs, someone had to play in goal. But the third-string was supposed to be up in the NHL and it looked like Hutchinson lost that job.
Heading into this season, though, Toronto can’t afford to have an older goalie on the Marlies again. While it was good for the two of Woll and Kallgren to have a veteran netminder like Hutchinson there, it’s time they experience the job on their own — to develop.
Don’t get me wrong, the 32-year-old was a massive help within the Marlies organization last season. However, it just doesn’t make sense to have an older goaltender on the roster when there are two goalies who need time in the crease.
Plus, if there’s an injury at that level, Toronto has plenty of goaltenders that can come up from the ECHL to play — much different from last season.
It’s always fascinating to discuss Toronto’s goaltending because it’s such a big topic with fans at any period of time. If the netminder is having a great stretch, atop Mount Everest they shall be. If they’re struggling, down to the Marianas Trench he will go.
The unpredictability of goaltenders interests me so much — this season more than ever — with Murray and Samsonov taking the reigns. There’s a lot that can happen, good or bad, and not knowing at this moment in time is quite a captivating feeling.
If things don’t work out with Murray or Samsonov, and speaking of third-string goaltenders, Toronto already has two in the organization. Although Woll and Kallgren aren’t the best options since they are still developing, Toronto shouldn’t be shy to bring them up for a short period during the season.
I’m not too sure if they should play in meaningful games, but seeing what they have at the NHL level, similar to what occurred last season, should be Toronto’s motive. It’s worth understanding what they are in the league above, or at least what they could be.
And hey, if both of Murray and Samsonov become injured, one of Kallgren and Woll (or both) could step in and play what could be only a few games. It isn’t the worst thing in the world for them to see NHL action, unless these injuries keep Toronto’s main netminders out long term.
That, though, isn’t going to happen because last season’s injuries were improbable. Nobody thought that would happen.
But, just in case, the Maple Leafs do have two third-string goaltenders. It may not be the best situation, yet it’s the one they’re in. Toronto might as well embrace it, and that seems like what they’re doing.
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