Toronto Maple Leafs Need to Stick With Freddie Andersen, For Now

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 27: Frederik Andersen #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs tends the net against the Florida Panthers during the second period at BB&T Center on February 27, 2020 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 27: Frederik Andersen #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs tends the net against the Florida Panthers during the second period at BB&T Center on February 27, 2020 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs finished 8th overall in the NHL standings from the day they hired Sheldon Keefe to the day the league paused play.

Considering that roughly a quarter of these games saw the Toronto Maple Leafs play without both of their two best defensemen, that is a pretty decent record.

Consider also that the Leafs received the 24th best goaltending during this time, despite allowing dangerous scoring chances at pretty much the same rate as “good defensive teams” like Dallas, Arizona, the Islanders and Blues.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that goaltending is the great randomizer of the NHL.   Goalies have a massive effect on games, but at the same time, you can’t really predict how a goalie will play.

I mean, what kind of maniac would have predicted that Tomas Griess, Jordan Binnington, Darcy Kuemper, and Ben Bishop would all vastly outperform Freddie Andersen?

Toronto Maple Leafs and Frederick Andersen

When last year started, the Leafs had Garrett Sparks as their goalie-in-waiting. He was coming off an AHL championship and was roundly considered one of the NHL’s best goalie prospects.

Sparks was considered a better NHL prospect than Jordan Binnington, who has since taken a last place team to a Stanley Cup win, and is now being touted as a potential starter for Canada’s next international tournament.

This kind of volatility is seen in the NHL every year.  Braden Holtby won the Cup with the Capitals after one of the single best individual goalie playoff performances in NHL history, and this year lost his job to a rookie.

The year Holtby had his great run, he beat Marc-Andre Fleury, who had arguably the best ever individual goalie performance in the playoffs of all time in that same year.

Fleury, a cup winning superstar, had recently lost his job to a cheaper rookie, Matt Murray.  Guess what happened to Matt Murray this year?  He lost his job to Tristen Jerry. (Who? Exactly!).

The list of Vezina winners is littered with more one-year-wonders than it is back-to-back winners.

All of this may be anecdotal, but it strongly suggest that goaltending is impossible to predict.  And yet, goalies are the most important player on a team.

The best goalie of the year usually has more impact on a game than the best position player, but unlike position players, we don’t know who that will be from year to year.

It’s not completely random, but it’s volatile enough to make long-term commitment to goalies in a salary cap league a bad move.

The risk vs reward on locking up a goalie to a big contract makes no sense.

Freddie Andersen may have been the #1 reason why the Toronto Maple Leafs over-achieved in the first two years of the Auston Matthews era, but he is also the #1 reason why the team was bad this year.

Despite his awful play for the vast majority of this season, Andersen has been very consistent, especially for a goalie.  Few goalies are consistent, so when you find one, you can’t be in a hurry to move on, even if he has a bad year.  At the same time, you can’t be handing out big long term deals.

There’s a balance needed here that is nearly impossible to achieve unless you happen upon a hall of famer.

Sure, any random NHL goalie might just be on the verge of a random Vezina, but how would you know? Best to take your chances with what you know.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have one more season after this where Andersen is signed to a deal that was risky at the time, but has turned into a very team friendly contract.

As a competing team, you probably can’t trade him.

But if we look to the lessons of Holtby, Bobrovsky, Murray and Fleury, I think it’s pretty clear you can’t sign him to a major extension either.

So the best move is to keep him around for one more season, then give him the choice of walking for a big pay day, or sticking around on a short, team-friendly deal.

They can’t trade Andersen, and they can’t re-sign him (barring the unlikely event he wants to forgo a raise).

In that case, who would replace him?

The thing about goalies is that you don’t even know if one of the good ones will be good a year from now, so no sense worrying about it.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will almost certainly need a new goalie after next season.  But trying to guess who it should be, based on everything we know about goalies, is foolish.

If you knew a goalie would be the best, he would easily be worth the highest dollar amount on your team. But since you can’t know, you should never spend money or assets on a goalie.

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Better to play the odds look for a bargain.

Therefore, the Toronto Maple Leafs should keep Andersen, for now.