Toronto Maple Leafs: Can Freddy Andersen Return and Be Effective?

Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been without their number one goalie, Frederik Andersen since March 19th and have been relying on a combination of Jack Campbell, Michael Hutchinson and deadline acquisition David Rittich, to man the net for their last 17 games.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have faired well in Andersen’s absence though, with a record of 12-3-3 in this span ( per ), but their goal differential of only +7 in these games tells us that they relied on their offense most nights to secure the victory.

During a brief losing streak it seemed as though the Leafs couldn’t buy a save, and in that moment Leafs Nation turned their attention back to the absent Frederik Andersen.

Andersen recently spoke to the media and shed some light on his injury situation, saying it has been a nagging knee injury that has plagued him throughout the year and has kept him on the sidelines for six weeks. Andersen began practicing with the team this week and seems to be nearing his return, but a couple of questions remain.

Can Kyle Dubas find a way to bring Andersen back onto the squad and fit him under the salary cap? And, with all of this time off, can Freddy come back into the net and actually be an effective goaltender for a Toronto Maple Leafs team expecting to go on a deep playoff run?

Toronto Maple Leafs Salary Cap Implications:

The Toronto Maple Leafs currently have very little wiggle room when it comes to the salary cap ceiling. They have a bit over a million in cap space, thanks to Andersen, Riley Nash and Scott Sabourin giving them cap relief through the LTIR. So to remove Andersen from LTIR and onto the active roster it will take some manoeuvring and a little bit of cap manipulation.

It seems likely that Zach Hyman and Zach Bogosian will likely be out for the remainder of the regular season, so it would make sense to move these two onto LTIR and get that cap relief. After this move the Leafs would only need to move another player or two, depending on the player, to the taxi squad and Andersen would fit no problem onto the active roster.

There has been some discussion of Andersen having a stint with the Toronto Marlies, who will be starting their season back up this weekend, May 1st and 2nd. This could allow the Leafs to maintain a full roster and give Andersen a few games under his belt to combat the “rust” that some in Leafs Nation are a little concerned about.

In my opinion a stint with the Marlies would be unnecessary, and a player of Freddy’s ilk it may even be insulting. Andersen will benefit from an extended rest here to get his knee back to 100%, and concerned over “rust” hindering his performance should not be present.

Rust vs. Rest:

The debate of rust vs. rest has been argued throughout all sports for years now, but the argument is always skewed one way or the other based on the result. If a team has an extended layoff and wins, the rest gave them the advantage over their opponent. If a team comes back from an extended layoff and loses, they were rusty. And with Freddy Andersen it will undoubtedly be the same story. However, we have a very recent example of Andersen having an extended period off and jumping right into playoff hockey without a single regular season game to get him “game ready”.

Last year when the sports world came to a stop, the Frederik Andersen and the Maple Leafs played their last game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 10th.  Not only was Andersen not playing “real games”, he wasn’t even on the ice for months until the NHL came up with a plan to return to play.

From March 10 until an exhibition game vs. Montreal Canadiens on July 28th, Andersen was only able to practice a handful of times. Andersen was then thrust into a 5 game series against the Columbus Blue Jackets and did not look rusty at all. In fact, in my opinion, played well.

In five games Andersen managed a 1.84 GAA and a .936 save percentage. Of course the series was ultimately lost in five games, and one could point at a couple of untimely goals that Andersen let by him. So was that rust? I don’t believe so.

Andersen has been known to let in a stinker every now and then, just like any goalie in the league not named Vasilevskiy. The Toronto Maple Leafs should not worry about whether or not Andersen gets a game or two in before the playoffs.

Next. Leafs Best Lineup for the Playoffs. dark

The main concern should be getting Freddy to 100% health before the playoffs, so that Leafs Nation can enjoy a lengthy playoff run with a healthy and rested goaltender.