This morning during Day 2 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Ottawa Senators traded for Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray. So, he won’t be coming to Toronto; instead, he’s moving farther east to Ottawa.
The Senators still must negotiate a contract and sign the 26-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup winner; however, Murray looks like a great piece for the Senators’ rebuild. It also means that any Murray-to-Maple Leafs rumors are up in smoke.
Frederik Andersen Is a Lame Duck Goalie
Despite Kyle Dubas’ talk two days ago that he expected Andersen’s place to be as the starting goalie for the Maple Leafs – “as of this moment,” it seems illogical that the organization won’t move on from Andersen to acquire a another goalie.
From my perspective, Andersen’s time with the Maple Leafs is coming to an end. I think Dubas knows it, and Andersen obviously believes it – he admitted as much not long ago. As Maple Leafs fans were aware, he was preparing to be traded.
Maple Leafs fans also know that Andersen isn’t a problem; in fact, quite the opposite. He’s been better than average in net for the Maple Leafs since he arrived in 2016. He’s been solid value for $5 million.
But the reality is also clear. Andersen deserves a raise after the 2020-21 season and the organization’s engagement with the flat salary cap for the foreseeable future means he’s simply a player the team can no longer afford. He’s a lame duck, and in business terms, it’s simply negligent to allow a situation to play out where the team loses him without any return.
If this were a divorce, it would be one for “irreconcilable differences” between the Maple Leafs and the salary cap. There’s been no wrongdoing; it’s simply “no-fault” with no party causing the breakdown. I’ll be sad to see Andersen go, but I simply cannot see any other option.
If Andersen Is Leaving, Now What?
So, if Andersen is leaving, do the Maple Leafs have other options? I think there are several, and let me name two possibilities – one risky and one less risky.
Possible Option #1 (the risky option): Marcus Hogberg (Ottawa Senators)
I believe Murray’s landing in Ottawa might offer the Maple Leafs an opportunity to pick up a completely under-the-radar goalie – Marcus Hogberg. Picking up Hogberg is obviously a bit of a risk, because you’d have to trust the possibility that either he or current Maple Leafs backup goalie Jack Campbell could become a starter. That might not be a risk Dubas and the organization would dare take with this core of Maple Leafs stars ready to engage a long playoff run.
I had my eye on Hogberg all last season and I think he’s a potential star. His numbers might not look great on paper (24 games played, a 5-8-8 record, a goals against average of 3.12, and a save percentage of 0.904), but last season the 6-foot-5, 25-year-old Swede stood tall in front of regularly over-matched Senators’ skaters. He lost more games than he won, but who wouldn’t have on that rebuilding Senators team.
Game after game, he was overwhelmed, but he still did a solid job of stopping the puck. Hogberg’s on a $700,000 contract for another year before becoming a restricted free agent. As I say, it’s a risky move. However, could a duo of Campbell and Hogberg split the goalie duties for the team? That’s what happened with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, and neither Elvis Merzlikins nor Joonas Korpisalo made more than $1.15 million.
Possible Option #2 (the less-risky option): Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Speaking of Korpisalo, he certainly showed Maple Leafs fans what he could do against the blue and white. What more does he have to do to prove he’s a number-one goalie? If I were the Maple Leafs, I’d spend tons of energy trying to get him. He’s relatively young at 26 years of age, and he’s signed to a $2.6 million salary cap hit for two more seasons.
Thus, it was no surprise that I read the Maple Leafs had expressed interest in this Blue Jackets goalie. During the 3-0 win in Game 5 over the Maple Leafs in the qualifying series, the team threw 33 shots at him and he stopped everything to lead his team into the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Korpisalo opened the Maple Leafs series with a shutout and closed it with another shutout. Ironically, his best save was against Andreas Johnsson during the third period when the Blue Jackets were ahead 2-0. [I say ironically because, should Korpisalo come to Toronto, Johnsson would likely move to Columbus.] During the four games he played against the Maple Leafs, Korpisalo’s save percentage was an amazing .956. That couldn’t have been lost on anyone on the Maple Leafs’ sidelines.
Then Korpisalo also had a great series against the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Lightning. In Game 1 of that series, he played one of the most amazing games of the Stanley Cup playoffs ever, setting an NHL record by making 85 saves in a 3-2 quintuple-overtime loss. In that game, he made 50 consecutive saves and broke Kelly Hrudey’s 1987 record of 73 saves. It was only his fifth postseason game.
Rumors are that the two teams are talking. The Blue Jackets need help at the forward positions – both at wing and center. That need for scoring might make forwards Johnsson’s and/or Alex Kerfoot’s skills and three-year contracts attractive.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
One thing was apparent during Day 1 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. There’s a widely-held assumption that quality goalies are the hardest players to get a read on. The goalie position is unique and it’s tough to predict who might become a star and who might not.
This season’s Stanley Cup Final was a case in point. Although his Dallas Stars team didn’t win, backup goalie Anton Khudobin had a tremendous postseason. Two months ago, fans could have asked – where’d he come from?
In 2016, when Andersen came to the Maple Leafs from the Anaheim Ducks, he was a backup. But Andersen played well in Toronto – so well that his next contract is an issue the team can’t fix.
It will be interesting to see how Dubas and the organization might move to fix that issue. Regardless of all the talk, I simply cannot see Andersen being with the team next season.