The Toronto Maple Leafs knew they would start the 2023-24 season with goaltender Matt Murray on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). Murray on LTIR didn't seem like a big problem, as the Leafs have Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll to patrol as a tandem.
The Toronto Maple Leafs new general manager, Brad Treliving, decided to sign a goaltender as a depth option. He signed 33-year-old veteran goaltender Martin Jones to a one-year deal worth $875,000. At the end of training camp, the Leafs decided to keep Samsonov and Woll at the NHL level and place Jones on waivers with the purpose of sending him down to the AHL to play with the Toronto Marlies.
However, they needed him to clear waivers first before that could happen. As many Leafs fans know, not many Leafs players make it through waivers without being claimed by another team. Luckily for the Leafs, Jones did clear waivers and remained within the organization. Having Jones in their system has become a blessing. Due to Samsonov's poor play this season and the injury to Woll, it's hard to imagine where the Leafs would be without Jones bailing them out.
Jones has made ten appearances in net this season for the Leafs. He has a 6-3-0 record with a 2.20 GAA and a .930 SV% with two shutouts. A team couldn't really ask for more from their third-string goaltender. Although it is a small sample size, it is surprising to see Jones playing this well. He did register a 27-13-3 record with the Seattle Kraken last season, but he posted an .886 SV% which is not very good. Additionally, he hasn't finished a season above .900 in a half decade. (Stats from hockey-reference.com)
The Future for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Martin Jones
Joseph Woll is expected to return to the Leafs lineup within the next two weeks.
He has been out of action since December 9th, 2023, and was listed as being out week-to-week.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe said to expect Woll's time on injured reserve to be about as long as Timothy Liljegren's when he suffered a high ankle sprain. Due to Woll being a goaltender, the time off might be a bit longer. We're at four weeks now, so another two weeks should be a good bet for Woll's return.
Once Woll returns, what should the Leafs do with Jones?
Should they try the tandem of Woll and Samsonov again, or should they try to trade Samsonov and keep Jones as Woll's backup? Tough decisions for Brad Treliving to answer. Due to his poor season, the value of Samsonov has dropped a lot. I'm not sure what the Leafs would be able to get in return for Samsonov should he get traded, especially since any team could have had him for free and passed.
One thing I am sure about is that Jones has earned a long look in the Leafs net.
He performed well enough for the Leafs to win games they had no business winning. To me, that is what a goaltender is supposed to do, so Jones deserves a lot of credit for where the Leafs are in the standings.