Joseph Woll has been a revelation and his .916% save percentage (SV%) has largely saved the team. Sadly, he suffered an injury this past month. In his absence, Martin Jones has been surprisingly steady boasting a
Ilya Samsonov has not been good enough, though with a putrid .862 SV% through 15 games. As the goalie currently occupying the highest caphit on their payroll at $3.55 million, it is nowhere near enough.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team that is pushed right up against the cap ceiling, they cannot have that money allocated to a goalie that is bleeding wins.
There are a few different solutions to the goaltending issue. The Leafs have called up Dennis Hildeby, who is currently dominating the American Hockey League (AHL) in his first full season in North America, with a .919 SV% through 15 games.
The counterpoint many bring up is that you don’t want to rush the 22-year-old netminder and risk shaking his confidence. However, Felix Potvin and James Reimer were both under 23 when they were handed the reigns to the Leafs crease.
The other option would be to also make a trade. If you can somehow dump Samsonov’s contract and get back a playable goaltender, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. For example, if you could swap Kaapo Kahkonen and Ilya Samsonov with the San Jose Sharks or Samsonov for Karel Vejmelka with the Arizona Coyotes. However, this doesn’t seem likely and given the needs in other areas of the roster, spending assets on a goalie (and to dump Samsonov) seems risky and unwise unless you’re making a major improvement.
The last and most likely option is that the Leafs continue to try and work with Samsonov in hopes he can regain his form. This becomes even more likely after the other day's announcement that the Leafs had placed Samsonov on waivers.
He was a .919 SV% goalie last year over 42 games in the regular season. His worst season before this was his final year in Washington where he held a .896 SV% over 44 games. Although, time does seem to be running out and the Leafs will need to do something soon.
All advanced metrics via moneypuck.com
Last season, the Leafs broke an 18-year drought by advancing past the first round. They need to make adjustments if they plan on building upon that season in hopes of making it to the second round and beyond this season.