After leading the Leafs past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in over two decades last season, goalie Ilya Samsonov was looking forward to another strong season with the Leafs after being awarded a one-year, $3.55 million deal through arbitration.
He displayed some hiccups during his play in preseason, but many had thought he was just working out the kinks in preparation for the regular season.
However, what we saw during training camp unfortunately was a forecast of what was to come for his 2023-24 NHL season. Samsonov has endured in his worst ever season in the league so far by posting a 5-3-6 record with a gaudy 3.88 GAA and .863 save percentage, ranking him second last and last in the league respectively among goalies with at least 10 games played.
He was even waived and demoted to the AHL to get his game back on track at one point in time, and has yet to regain his stellar form from last season.
With third-string goalie Martin Jones holding the fort in the meantime but beginning to show some cracks in his game, the current scenario is not a recipe for success in the long run. As a result, the Leafs will need to address the goaltending issue as soon as possible before it is too late.
To keep deploying Samsonov in his current state could spell disaster for both Samsonov and the Leafs.
He should be given a stress-free environment where he can rediscover his game and regain the confidence to become a strong NHL-level goaltender once again. That can be accomplished by either trading him to a non-contending team or have him spend more time in the AHL away from the rigors of playing in front of the intense atmosphere of the Leafs. Whatever ends up working, we just wish the best for Samsonov in revitalizing his once-promising career.