The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have a goalie controversy and that’s a good thing.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, do however, have an expensive backup in Ilya Samsonov and can use his cap space to get a defenseman or two to help the emerging No. 1 goaltender, Joseph Woll.
They should deal from an area of stability to address a glaring team deficiency.
Somewhat lost in the discussion of how the Leafs are winning nowadays is the clarity that Woll has provided for the coaching staff.
The transition from Samsonov to Woll appears to be materializing earlier this season than most fans of this team thought.
Toronto Maple Leafs Should Consider Trading Ilya Samsonov
Woll, who lets in almost a full goal per game less than Samsonov, has clearly become the best option for the Leafs in net.
He is young, positionally solid and could become the next Jordan Binnington.
He hasn’t allowed too many softies and has made several ten-bell stops to win games for the Leafs that they have no business in being victorious – like he did recently against the Seattle Kraken in overtime.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has given Samsonov every opportunity to claim the crease, but the fifth-year player from Magnitogorsk, Russia has struggled and looks like he has no confidence in his game.
Samsonov has a save percentage below .900, which is akin to a Major League hitter batting below .200. It’s not good. If the playoffs started tomorrow, there would be no doubt that Woll would be the man in the mask.
What Could GM Brad Treliving Get for Samsonov?
The return for Samsonov might not be great because he’s been playing poorly, but who cares? The tandem of Woll and Martin Jones or Dennis Hildeby, who both currently play in the AHL for the Toronto Marlies, could easily provide the same statistics for the Leafs at better value.
Samsonov was signed as a restricted free agent this past offseason to a $3.55M AAV (per capfriendly.com) one-year contract. Woll gets paid $766,667 a year.
Hildeby, drafted by the Leafs in the fourth-round of the 2022 draft, has played the most games (8) for the Marlies and has a sparkling 1.63 GAA and a 0.935 save percentage.
There are numerous teams in the NHL that have space under the salary cap. Treliving could easily unload Samsonov for a late-round pick. The move would free up some much needed cash to pick up a defenseman, which is a dire need for a team without one of their top defenders in Timothy Liljegren.
Liljegren is on long-term injury reserve after suffering a high-ankle sprain thanks to Bruins forward Brad Marchand early in November.
The Leafs typically like to make life hard on themselves. They routinely give away pucks in their own end, which leads to high danger scoring chances. Heading into the Saturday night tilt with the Bruins, Woll had a ‘W’ in four of his last five starts.
Keefe knows that Woll has steadied the team with consistency and being able to bounce back from giving one up.
“They feel it back there. When we make a mistake, he’s there. He’s competing. He’s growing, it seems like, every single start,” Keefe said, per Yahoo Sports Canada.
When the Leafs blew a two-goal when the Kraken came to town last Thursday, Keefe credited Woll with exuding something this team needs from its’ goaltender.
“Confidence,” Keefe said, per Yahoo Sports Canada. “He gives up the two in the third, and he’s right there to make the next saves.”
The Leafs cannot afford to give Samsonov the time he needs to find his game. How confident are you that Treliving will make a great trade?