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The Leafs Goaltending Problem

It's clear that the Leafs tandem will be Samsonov and Woll next season, so what about Murray?

Last season with Jack Campbell having signed in Edmonton, Kyle Dubas was forced to take a gamble on two very different goaltenders. One of which was a two-time Stanley cup winning veteran Matt Murray who had a multitude of issues with his new team after signing a four-year deal in Ottawa.



The other was 25-year-old RFA Ilya Samsonov, who had seen his spot on the Capitals roster filled by Darcy Kuemper and had to look elsewhere for a job.



As it turns out, that gamble paid off…



…kind of.



While both goalies had extremely bright moments with the Leafs this past season, Samsonov stole the starting job as Matt Murray struggled to stay healthy. The emergence of Joseph Woll as a legitimate NHL goaltender pushed the injury-prone veteran to third place on the goaltending depth chart. And with a cap hit of $4.68 million for another year, Murray probably won’t be around next season.



So what now?



The goaltending tandem for next season is shaping up to feature Samsonov as the starter with Woll as the reliable young backup and Erik Kallgren as the third-stringer. Ilya Samsonov is currently an RFA, and looking to make Matt Murray’s money. Therefore, the Leafs will be looking to trade Murray and then sign Samsonov to a similar deal, hopefully on a slightly lower AAV, as Murray had earned that number after backstopping the Penguins to back-to-back cups.



He’s made it clear that he wishes to remain in Toronto, saying things like “We have the best doctors, best therapists, best workout coaches. We have the best coaches, we have the best players."



The biggest question is, who would be willing to take Matt Murray?



A few teams come to mind. Firstly, it was reported last offseason that the Buffalo Sabres had a deal in place for Matt Murray, but Murray reportedly nixed the trade by enacting his modified no-trade clause. So although the Sabres may indeed be a good fit for him, he likely won’t be heading there unless he has a serious change of heart, as his no-trade clause remains in effect with the Leafs.



The Blackhawks also make a lot of sense for Murray. It was just last offseason that the Leafs sent Petr Mrazek and a first-round pick to Chicago for the sole purpose of getting his contract off the books. The BlackHawks have another goaltending slot open with Alex Stalock’s contract expiring and certainly wouldn’t be adverse to the idea of taking on another struggling Leafs goaltender if it meant assets coming their way.



That of course is the problem for the Leafs.



Murray has a higher cap hit than Mrazek did, meaning it could take even more than a first-rounder to get rid of him. Something Brad Treliving likely won’t be too thrilled with considering the Leafs' limited draft capital this year.



Finally, the San Jose Sharks are in desperate need of a goaltender. With Kaapo Kahkonen as their only NHL goalie under contract through next season, they’ll be looking for a veteran to play alongside him. So why not get paid in draft picks to take a guy like Murray who only has a year left on his deal? They’re another team who isn’t looking to win anytime soon, so the dumping cost for Matt Murray’s contract likely wouldn’t be as high as it would be in Chicago.



In any case, the deal is likely to happen at the draft, so look out for trade around the 28th or 29th of June.

Dave Felsbourg

Saturday, June 17, 2023

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