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Maple Leafs are wise to act early on the Woll extension

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
27 days ago
Much has been made about what the Maple Leafs will choose to do in net. One of the things that most people agree on is that Joseph Woll is part of the future. On Monday, Kevin Weekes, Hockey Insider reported that the Leafs will bring back Woll for three more seasons following the 2024-25 season at $3.5M AAV- $4M AAV.
That contract says a few different things and we’ll start with what it means about Joseph Woll and his relationship with the Leafs. The organization really believes in this guy and are ready to compensate him as a strong tandem goaltender despite his numerous health setbacks. When he’s been in net, he’s been what the Leafs need and when it comes to the playoffs, well, at this point the question is probably why aren’t the Leafs using him more often and sooner?
While 36 regular season and 7 playoff games stretched out over 3 seasons is a small sample, the 100% Quality Starts in the playoffs is a statistic that stands out and creates buy-in for a tandem approach. Despite dipping below 50% quality starts in the regular season, Woll still had 7.2 goals saved above expected and 0.294 goals saved above expected per 60. His 82.8 HDSV% was the best amongst Leafs goaltenders last season and 19th best of goaltenders in the NHL with over 20 games played.
There is also something to be said about how Woll has fit into the Leafs locker room. Players and coaches have repeatedly cited his composure as a strength and a calming presence for the Leafs, and that is a rare form of praise for a Leafs netminder in the past few years.
Believing in Woll is one thing but the deal also comes with the weight of expectations. Health is a tough thing to demand of someone but I’m sure the Leafs want to find a way to get Woll to at least the 40-game mark. Whether it is through conditioning and off-ice work or contracting a team of doctors to rebuild Woll, the Leafs will be paying a price that calls for some quantity to go with the quality they have received from Joseph.
The cap hit also sends a few messages about how the Maple Leafs interpret the cap in the coming years and what direction they will be going in net. Presently the $3.5M-$4M range hits very much at the solid part of a tandem price range, but as early as this year we might start seeing stronger backup goaltenders to deals approaching the $3M AAV mark. If Woll can’t hand a 40-game workload it’s entirely possible his cap hit will still align with a reason number for someone handling 1/3 of the workload.
The deal also offers the Leafs some flexibility and asset management benefits. There is nothing to stop the Leafs from still chasing a bona fide NHL starting netminder this off-season, having Woll under contract doesn’t prevent that especially since he will still come at a sub-league minimum cap hit for the 2024-25 season. What having Woll under contract allows for is not being hung up on term or extensions as part of what they are looking at this year. With strong trade options and minimal free agent options at the moment the Leafs are still very much in the same situation as before, but if they go an expensive route with term and make a long-term commitment that way, Woll is a strong, young, movable asset, although one that they are not likely to move on from until they know what they have in Dennis Hildeby. And as much as this is about Woll and his contract, Dennis Hildeby and the Leafs’ two Russian goaltending prospects also factor in when it comes to the direction of the Leafs net. It’s entirely possible we see a Woll/Leafs Prospect tandem at some point in the next four years allowing for another cost-controlled crease.
Woll, who will be 26 at the start of the season, is a sound investment for the Maple Leafs. The likely prime of his career is looked up at an affordable rate and simply put, the Maple Leafs are not in a position where they can walk away from a good goaltender. And if that good goaltender has a strong 2024-25 season there would be a strong possibility that the contract demands are a lot higher next summer.
The Leafs being able to develop a netminder they want to keep is also a plus. Health will always be the question mark with Woll but it is a risk they can mitigate as well. Ultimately this looks like a smart preemptive extension by Treliving & Co. and offers some optimism for the pending Knies and Holmberg contracts.
Data from Hockey Reference, Money Puck, and Natural Stat Trick
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