The Maple Leafs should consider themselves lucky after Ilya Samsonov’s arbitration ruling

Photo credit:David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
8 months ago
Good news folks, Ilya Samsonov is locked in for next season. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Russian netminder have signed a one-year $3.55-million contract, thanks to mediator Stephen Raymond, who recently awarded the contract via the NHL’s arbitration process.
It was a sticky situation that could and maybe should have been avoided, but luckily for the Leafs, it does sound like both sides have come out unphased. Samsonov’s agent spoke to the Toronto Sun and mentioned “Ilya plans to be in Toronto very soon, he’s anxious to get back and start working out. He was well-schooled (in prepping for the arbitration hearing). There are no hard feelings with the Leafs now we move forward.”
Sounds like Brad Treliving and company owe Meehan a beer after he prepped Samsonov effectively for his hearing. Arbitration can derail relationships as it’s tough for any human to sit there and hear about how much he doesn’t do for a company, regardless of the job. Especially a goaltender, who is the backbone of the team and frankly, Samsonov is coming off a fine season for the Leafs where he took over as the true number one goalie. All in all, a great success and a very lucky outcome for the Maple Leafs.

Attention Turns to Matt Murray’s Future

There’s been a lot of chatter about what’s happening with Murray, now that a second buy out window has opened with Samsonov’s ruling. The Leafs can buy out Murray this week and save $4 million on this season’s cap and be hit with a $2 million charge in 2024-25. Considering the cap is expected to climb a significant amount, the $2 million hit will be more manageable than people think.
The only hurdle to worry about here is Murray’s health, which honestly appears to be all over the place. When Joseph Woll started during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe admitted Murray was healthy and available if needed. Now, there’s been talks about how Murray’s health may hinder the Leafs ability to buy him out. If that’s the case, LTIR may be the route Treliving takes.
There’s still a chance a trade gets worked out but at this point, I’d say that’s a 5% chance. The goalie carosul has already been spinning this summer and many teams are set in their crease. Treliving would need to add quite the sweetener to get a team to bite and he’s likely zoning in on the Chicago Blackhawks or Anaheim Ducks. Regardless, at this point it’s clear as mud, but this situation should be settled in the next week to 10 days.

Samsonov Poised for a Huge Season in 2023-24

Now the attention turns to next season for Samsonov, and as his agent mentioned, look for the netminder to come back to Toronto and get to work in the coming days. The 26-year-old enters next season as the cemented number one goalie, a situation that was much different than the start of last season.
Samsonov’s game was sharp for almost all of 2022-23, finishing the campaign with a 27-10-5 record, to go along with a 2.33 goals against average (GAA) and a .919 save percentage (Sv.%). His wins total was a career high, his GAA had never been lower and his Sv.% had never been higher throughout his NHL career. It was a dicey situation sending him to arbitration and hearing from his agent how there’s no hard feelings, should be considered a serious win for the Leafs organization. At this point, with another strong start, there’s certainly a chance a long-term contract extension could be worked out as Samsonov is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end the 2023-24 season.
The Maple Leafs continue to develop their defensive game. With some tweaks to the coaching staff, some more experience and another season under Sheldon Keefe, all of these ingredients should help Samsonov create another recipe for success. There weren’t many goalies better across the entire NHL last season and if he can stay healthy, look for the Russian netminder to finish next season as a top-5 goalie statistically. With Joseph Woll as his expected back up, I could see the Leafs finishing in the top-10 when it comes to overall goals against.
Treliving and the Maple Leafs dodged a massive bullet here. With Murray’s future a giant question mark, the team decided to risk a solid working relationship with Samsonov and put him through the ringer of the arbitration process. Luckily, with the way he’s wired, it does sound like Samsonov has brushed it off, maybe even had a laugh and is looking forward to getting back to work. It’s this type of care-free attitude which will help him have continued success in Toronto.

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