Maple Leafs expect Petr Mrazek to be humbled by waivers experience and need a ‘full reset’ from their goaltender
Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
8 months ago
Petr Mrazek knows things haven’t gone well for him this season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender’s rough first year with the club hit a new low Sunday when he was placed on waivers and perhaps further when the veteran went unclaimed the following day.
“Obviously different than being traded and stuff like that, so you never know what can happen, Mrazek said following practice on Tuesday. “The hockey career can change in a minute to go to different teams. I’m happy I’m here and I can show the rest of the year what I can do.”
On Monday, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas explained that he made the move to clear up some space under the salary cap. And while that is true, Mrazek’s underperformance this season allowed for that decision to become simple due to his poor performance.
“It’s a bit of a shock to a player, an established NHL player that goes on waivers. That, in itself, is a shock, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “And then he clears waivers it should be even more of a shock that you haven’t been nearly good enough.”
The 30-year-old signed a three-year contract worth $11.4 million last summer and was slated to work with incumbent starter Jack Campbell as a tandem.
But it hasn’t gone that way.
Mrazek injured his groin in his first start this season against the Ottawa Senators. When he attempted to come back from the ailment in November, he reinjured the groin and was shut down until mid-December. In that time, Campbell carried the load and performed well enough to earn his first NHL All-Star nod this season.
As Mrazek returned, both he and Campbell struggled and goaltending has dominated much of the scrutiny behind the Leafs this season.
On Mar. 10, the club announced that Campbell would be sidelined for a minimum of two weeks with a rib injury. That presented Mrazek with a chance to grab the net for an extended period of time. Later than evening, Mrazek was pulled after he allowed four goals in 12 shots against the lowly Arizona Coyotes. Erik Kallgren was forced to make his debut in relief and helped the team salvage a point in a 5-4 overtime loss.
Mrazek started the following game at the 2022 Heritage Classic, but allowed a low-danger goal on the game-winner by the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-2 loss.
Over the last week, Kallgren made the last three starts but recorded his first regulation loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
“I thought he did a good job for us,” Keefe said of Kallgren following the 6-3 defeat. “Five (goals) is a lot (to allow), but the fourth one is probably the toughest one of all.”
With Kallgren showing a small bit of regression in his game, Keefe wasn’t ready to name a starter for Wednesday’s home game against the New Jersey Devils.
Campbell has been skating on his own over the last three days but the timeline of his return isn’t clear. While he’s out and Kallgren’s recent tough start, there may be a strong temptation by Keefe to put Mrazek back in the net.
The coach hadn’t decided who his starter would be yet for Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils. And the honest truth of the situation is the Maple Leafs are stuck with Mrazek, electing not to upgrade the goaltending position before Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline.
“It’s an opportunity for him to really get to work now, that it is real and that we need him to be better,” Keefe said of Mrazek. “We believe he is a much better goalie and he’s proven that in his time in the NHL.
“That’s why we went out and signed him this summer. That’s why he got the deal that he got because he earned that and is worthy of it because of his time in the NHL. We need him to get to work and get back to that. So that was my message to him is that he’s capable of much better and we do believe in him and it’s time for him to get to work and deliver on it.”
Mrazek is 10-6-0 this season with an .884 save percentage.