The Toronto Maple Leafs Settle After Missing Out on All Good Goalie Options

Juuse Saros' new eight-year extension does not look good for the Toronto Maple Leafs as high-end goalie options have essentially dried up, leaving the Leafs with more questions than answers heading into a crucial season.
Juuse Saros' new contract with Nashville reduces the options the Toronto Maple Leafs have as the club searches for a number-one goaltender.
Juuse Saros' new contract with Nashville reduces the options the Toronto Maple Leafs have as the club searches for a number-one goaltender. / Brett Carlsen/GettyImages
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The Toronto Maple Leafs came into the off-season in need of a goalie.

Clearly the Toronto Maple Leafs new they needed a high-end option, as they tried to trade for Jacob Markstrom early in the off-season, but he ultimately went to the New Jersey Devils.

It's not known if the Leafs had interest in Linus Ullmark (Ottawa Senators), Darcey Kuemper (Los Angeles Kings), Logan Thompson (Washington Capitals) or Jusse Saros (Nashivlle Predators), but it's likely that they did.

After all of those guys went to new teams, the Leafs signed Anthony Stolarz, a potential late-bloomer with great stats, but not perhaps the name-brand star they wanted.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Settle After Missing Out on All Good Goalie Options

Juuse Saros massive eight-year extension with the Nashville Predators. Insider Elliotte Friedman first broke the news while ESPN confirmed the deal valued at roughly $62 million.

The deal is good news for the Predators, who lock up their starting goalie for the next eight seasons. However, the deal was a very bad development for the Toronto Maple Leafs because it meant the last potentially available top goalie was off the market.

Rumours had circulated for a while, suggesting the Predators were willing to move Saros if the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

Fellow Editor in Leaf contributor James Tanner underscored the importance of acquiring a goaltender like Saros, stating in a recent piece:

"“The Leafs have some of the best players in the NHL, but they’ve never augmented them with a top goalie, and it’s time to try doing that. Connor Hellebuyck, Andrei Vasilevski, Ilya Sorokin, Igor Shesterkin, and Jake Oettinger are clearly not going to be available.”"

James Tanner

Tanner is right in pointing out that goalies such as Vasilevski or Sorokin are not going to be available anytime soon. That’s what made the Saros ship sailing a bad omen for Toronto.

Goalies are the most important players on an NHL team, but they are unpredictable. Only a few - like Saros and Markstrom - are good every year.

What this situation means is that the Maple Leafs had to settle for the type that would be third-stringers on most contenders. That doesn't mean Stolarz isn't a good choice. It just means he's not the sure thing the top guys are.

In short, the Leafs ran out of time. While extending Joseph Woll was a good move, he is not the answer, at least not now, due to injury concerns. Pairing him with a question mark like Stolarz can be fine - teams make it to the Stanley Cup Finals all the time without top goaltending, but it's a risk.

Can the Toronto Maple Leafs Win Without a High-End Goaltender?

The Edmonton Oilers painted a silver lining for the Leafs this season. The Oilers proved that it’s possible to make a deep postseason run without a high-end netminder. In fact, the Oilers showed that as long as a team has a solid goaltender, a team can win by playing solid defence in front of him.

But there’s a caveat: There were times when Stuart Skinner looked shaky. That lack of confidence led the Oilers to drop games that a goalie like Igor Shesterkin would have stolen.

In 2023, Adin Hill provided proof that a team with an above-average goalie could go all the way. However, Hill was unable to replicate his success this season. As such, the Golden Knights struggled to make the playoffs but lost in seven to the Dallas Stars in the first round.

These two examples beg the question: Could the Leafs win with Joseph Woll and Anthony Stolarz? Theoretically, the Leafs could. In reality, it’s highly unlikely. Unless Woll somehow plays out of his mind the entire season and playoffs, it’s hard to envision Toronto winning a cup with Woll (or Ilya Samsonov, for that matter) in goal.

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Ultimately, Brad Treliving had his hands tied. There were no top-notch goalies available at this time. So, it seems the Leafs had to roll the dice with Woll and hope for the best.