Maple Leafs plan in goal becomes a little clearer after shipping Mrazek to Chicago
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
MONTREAL — It’s easy to criticize Kyle Dubas’ decision to sign Petr Mrazek to a three-year, $11.4 million contract last summer.
With little salary cap space heading into next season and a $3.8 million hit on a tandem goaltender who had an abysmal first year with the club, the Toronto Maple Leafs GM traded the 30-year-old Czech to the Chicago Blackhawks on Day 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft at Bell Centre.
On the surface, it looks like the Leafs traded another first-round pick to dispose of a problem. In reality, all they did was move down in the draft from No. 25 to 38.
It’s not much of a downgrade and they didn’t have to retain any salary in the deal.
Really, Dubas has Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson to thank for alleviating Toronto’s problem.
Chicago was in a particularly giving mood by making some questionable decisions on Thursday, including trading away 24-year-old forward Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for draft picks and 21-year-old centre Kirby Dack to the Montreal Canadiens for an identical haul.
The Blackhawks obvious aim to tank is Toronto’s gain and now they’re left with roughly $10.2 in cap space which will be primarily used to help fill their goaltending needs.
Now it’s just a question of how they go about it.
With incumbent starter Jack Campbell set to become an unrestricted free agent, the Leafs could look in another direction.
But now some doors are closing.
“You see with the trades and signings today the number of chairs are starting to go by the wayside,” Dubas said. “And so I think our situation would be enticing for any goaltender.”
The Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche moved on from pending unrestricted free agent goaltender Darcy Kuemper when they acquired the rights to restricted free agent Alexandar Georgiev in exchange for draft picks. Veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury signed a new two-year, $7 million contract to stay with the Minnesota Wild.
With Mrazek gone and doors closing, that leaves the Maple Leafs with a decision to make on how they want to approach their goaltending situation. Will it be a tandem situation or do they want to look for a traditional starter, a type that could start in approximately 60 games.
”I think like every team, we’d love to have the definite No. 1 but our goal is to have the best tandem we possibly can,” Dubas said.
No matter what they do, it appears they’ll look to add just one goaltender during the offseason, at least to start. With restricted free agents Pierre Engvall, Ondrej Kase and Rasmus Sandin still unsigned, there’s isn’t a lot of money in that $10.2 million to spend on two goaltenders.
Given the performance of goaltenders Erik Kallgren and Joseph Woll at various points of last season, the Leafs are prepared to go with one of those goaltenders as their No. 2 if that’s all they can do.
“I think I feel good about Kallgren and Woll battling there as well and that gives me confidence that the focus will certainly be one (goalie) and then we’ll see what the cap situation is from there and proceed,” Dubas said.
As far as Campbell returning to the Leafs. This move doesn’t seem to change the likelihood of him leaving or staying. The starter for the last two seasons is going to want a big raise and with other goaltenders in the market, they may look to go with another option.
“I think with the cap space available every option is available to us, whether that’s Jack or the others later next week or via trade, so I think it opens up a lot for us,” Dubas said. “I’ll meet with him when I get back to Toronto and go from there.”
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