Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov claimed victory on Sunday night, securing his first win in six weeks, but his journey to reclaiming a top position is far from complete.
The entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization has experienced a rollercoaster season, with Samsonov facing particularly challenging times. Despite beginning the season as the team's primary goaltender, he now finds himself surpassed by Martin Jones and Joseph Woll, both of whom have exhibited stronger performances.
Before this season, Samsonov had never started more than 44 games in a season, and while a heavy workload wasn't anticipated, he was expected to be the team's standout goalie, given his .919 SV% and 2.33 GAA averages from the previous year.
The Leafs rely on their potent offensive top-six, believing that average to above-average goaltending is sufficient for success, at least in the regular season. However, this strategy has repeatedly failed in the playoffs, where their goaltenders seem to transform into prime Patrick Roy, resulting in defeats.
To compete for a Stanley Cup, the Leafs must transition from relying on cheap average goalies to acquiring a special talent.
Leafs Need to Add Another Goalie
Although Samsonov showcased his skills in the recent game, allowing only one goal and improving in his last two starts, the team should not solely depend on him for the remainder of the season. This might be an opportune moment to consider trading him, especially as his stock is on the rise.
The trio of Samsonov, Woll, and Jones is not be sufficient to secure a Stanley Cup. While there's a slim chance Woll might return to his pre-injury high-level performance, his persistent health issues raise uncertainties about his future capabilities. The Leafs major concern lies in their defensive struggles, and acquiring a new goaltender could potentially address this issue.
Goalies like Jacob Markstrom and John Gibson, both older starters on bad teams, are likely available and could be viable options. If either Calgary or Anaheim is willing to retain some salary, a trade involving Samsonov might make sense financially. While Markstrom is the preferred choice over Gibson, the latter's recent struggles might be attributed to his team's performance rather than his individual skills, making him a potential candidate for rejuvenation on a playoff team.
The Leafs cannot afford to squander another season with star players like Matthews, Nylander, Tavares, and Marner.
Despite a promising start in Seattle, it is advisable for Toronto to trade Samsonov and explore alternatives like Markstrom or Gibson; otherwise, their season may conclude prematurely in April.