The Toronto Maple Leafs Resting Their Cup Hopes on a Hail Mary

Despite making big waves on the first day of free agency, the Toronto Maple Leafs failed to address a crucial weakness, leaving the team to rest its Cup hopes on a Hail Mary goalie tandem.
Joseph Woll looks poised to become the Toronto Maple Leafs' starting goaltender heading into next season.
Joseph Woll looks poised to become the Toronto Maple Leafs' starting goaltender heading into next season. / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

The opening day of free agency was a dud for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sure, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a huge splash by signing Chris Tanev and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but not everyone feels optimistic about the Tanev signing as it is expensive and risky.

That said, addressing the blue line was a major concern and at least for the next two or three years, GM Brad Treliving has assured the team has reliable defensemen that line up with the Leafs new identity under coach Craig Berube.

However, the Leafs failed to address a crucial area: Goaltending. In fact, the team not only failed to address it, the club took a step back.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Resting Their Cup Hopes on a Hail Mary

Yes, I like the signing of Anthony Stolarz. I think he’s a great backup. He demonstrated that in Florida, serving as Sergei Bobrovsky’s understudy. But does Stolarz’s signing mean that Joseph Woll is the starter?

Does it mean that Stolarz will be in the mix as the starter? In fact, went as far as to suggest that Stolarz would be a tandem with Woll.

That prospect concerns me. Now, I’ve written in the past about how Vegas, Colorado, and Edmonton have proven you can go all the way to the Cup Final without a bona fide number-one goaltender. But those clubs showed the discipline needed to make up for the lack of a top-end goalie.

So, are we to assume that the Leafs are going to rest their Cup hopes on a Hail Mary tandem?

Perhaps the most perplexing move of the day came when the club announced it had re-signed Matt Murray to a league-minimum deal. Unless the plan is to keep Murray in the AHL, this move does little to address the Leafs need in goal.

Murray is by no means insurance. In fact, I’ve suggested the idea of bringing back Jack Campbell as a third or fourth-stringer just to avoid having a Zamboni driver put on the pads. The way things look now, it seems another season of inconsistent results is on the horizon.

In Treliving’s defence, the pickings were slim in the free-agent goalie market. The best netminders were available through trade. However, none of those possibilities materialised for the Leafs. So, without any real possibilities of adding a reputable starter via free agency, the Leafs turned to plan B.

What’s plan B? Or C, D, E, F, for that matter?

The alternative to a true number-one goalie seems to be loading up on defence. Tanev and Ekman-Larsson do well to complement Timothy Liljegren’s signing. The Leafs now have five solid blue-liners: Morgan Rielly, Jake McCabe, Liljegren, Tanev, and Ekman-Larsson. Plus, Simon Benoit should round out the Leafs’ top six defenders quite well.

So now it seems the plan is for the Leafs to become a solid defensive team. The Leafs have to rely on the backup plan in order to make up for the lack of a true starting goaltender. While I don’t think the Leafs are done, it seems Woll and Stolarz are the plan for now.


Meanwhile, Treliving will surely kick the tires on a number of goalies as the season wears on. Perhaps a team like St. Louis completely falls off the map and decides to move Jordan Binnington. With the way things play out in the NHL, one should never say never.