As much as I roll the scenarios around in my head, I see very little chance that Frederik Andersen will be back with the Toronto Maple Leafs after this season. In fact, spelling out the scenarios, there’s only one chance I can see that he stays. And, even that chance is rife with issues.
Four Possible Frederik Andersen Scenarios: Which One Comes to Be?
If you’re a pop culture fan, you’ll remember the scene in the movie Avengers: Infinity War (2018) where Dr Strange – who possesses the Infinity Stone of Time – is shown contorting in thought as he plays out 12 million possible futures where the Avengers might eventually defeat Thanos and return the universe to normal. He comes up with a single scenario.
Scenarios that project the possible futures of the Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Andersen neither run in the millions nor does the fate of the universe hang in their balance; however, I know they are interesting to me and other Maple Leafs’ fans. In short, what could happen to Andersen this season; and, what does that mean for his future?
Fans know that, since coming to the Maple Leafs six seasons ago from the Anaheim Ducks, Andersen has been the Maple Leafs’ starting goalie. And, he’s been good. Regardless of what happens during the remainder of his NHL career, he’ll likely emerge in franchise history of one of the top five goalies the team has ever had.
Specifically, Andersen won’t remove Turk Broda or Johnny Bower from the first or second spot. Nor will he become as beloved in Maple Leafs’ history as Felix Potvin. However, a case can be made that his time with the team was more productive than the seasons either Curtis Joseph or Ed Belfour tended the twine.
In a different time – one not knotted up in salary-cap contingencies or pandemic-squeezed upper limits to a flat cap – I’m guessing Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas would seek a path that allows Andersen to remain with the team. I believe the organization really values Andersen and appreciates his history with the club. But these aren’t the times.
The Good News: Andersen’s Injuries Are Healing
Before I outline what I believe these scenarios are, I want to report that good news that Andersen’s injury is healing and he’s back practicing with the team. That single fact – he’s healing – allows the following possibilities to be explored.
The first good news was reported on April 19, when TSN’s Mark Masters tweeted that Andersen first went on the ice with his teammates. Andersen even stuck around to face his teammates’ shots. For the first time it seemed he was making progress from his lower-body injury, and Masters’ tweet showed how pleased his teammates were to see him again.
A week later (April 26), Andersen was also on the ice for practice. After practice, he spoke to the media for the first time since March 19 and reported that his lower-body injury was “something around my knee” but that he was “relieved” it was heading in the right direction (toward recovery). Andersen also told the media that, because he wasn’t comfortable pushing off or stopping, the injury made him decide to sit out after March 19.
Yesterday, Andersen practiced again with the team. After the practice, Keefe noted – after goalie Jack Campbell left early – “That was just part of the plan. We didn’t need to overwork him (Campbell) today. He will play again tomorrow.”
Then Keefe reported, “We had set it up so that Fred (Andersen) would get an increased number of shots today and [David] Rittich would relieve Campbell when he was done.” [BTW, note how Keefe’s use of first and last names reveals relationship.]
Yesterday was Andersen’s third full practice since March 19. When Keefe was asked what that meant for the future, he responded that there was “No real clarity on it. Today is a good step for him just in terms of increasing his workload. The plan at this point is that he is not going to travel with us, but we will have another team practice on Wednesday. As they are building up his workload, they are going to try to set up a plan from there.”
Four Possible Scenarios for the Rest of the Season
Now that Andersen’s on his way to recovery, what could happen for the remainder of the season? And, what might those possibilities mean for Andersen’s future with the team? Here are the scenarios I believe could unfold over the remainder of the 2020-21 season, specifically focusing on what might happen in the playoffs.
Scenario One: Jack Campbell Starts the Playoffs and Does Well
Given the way the 2020-21 regular season has unfolded with the Maple Leafs’ goaltending, it wouldn’t be surprising if Campbell started the playoffs for the team. Nor would it be surprising if he played well.
As reader Stan Smith noted in the discussion of a post recently, if Campbell “goes all the way” in the playoffs or has a strong playoff run, it proves to the organization he can be a starter. In that case, the Maple Leafs don’t need Andersen and let him go. The team doesn’t have enough salary-cap space to sign Andersen and he’d likely have a number of opportunities where he would be a starting goalie.
Scenario Two: Frederik Andersen Is Healed, Starts the Playoffs, and Does Well
If the Maple Leafs’ management decides that (a) it owes Andersen for his lengthy and successful service with the team or (b) it believes Andersen offers the team its best chance for an extended playoff run, he might start in the playoffs.
Should Andersen play well and win a number of playoff series or, in the best-case scenario, help them take home the Stanley Cup, life gets complicated. I can’t imagine the team allowing him to leave. What would fans think if Andersen wins a cup, but the Maple Leafs decide they can’t afford him? Money would be found somewhere, which means moving out roster players.
Scenario Three: Jack Campbell Starts the Playoffs and Does Poorly
Assuming Andersen is healthy and ready to play, he’d be the goalie if Campbell fails in the playoffs. At that point, two things might happen.
First, Andersen plays well and carries the team. At that point, the organization is back in Scenario Two. Contract negotiations and roster moves become dynamic as the team seeks money to sign Andersen – somewhere.
Second, Andersen replaces Campbell but doesn’t get the job done. Andersen gets roasted by a relentless Toronto media; and, even if he were inclined to accept a team-friendly deal, the Maple Leafs would likely not be interested in paying it. The organization (and fans) would rekindle questions they’ve had about Andersen all along. Is he a goalie capable of helping them win a Stanley Cup?
Scenario Four: Frederik Andersen Is Healed, Starts the Playoffs, and Does Poorly
In this scenario, Andersen’s long-term value to the organization has been shaken by another poor playoffs. The team’s decision about re-signing him becomes easy. Andersen’s likely gone.
The One Chance Andersen Will Stay in Toronto Next Season
Only two scenarios (Scenario Two or Scenario Three B) play out well for Andersen should he wish to stay with the Maple Leafs. That said, even if those two scenarios evolve, might Andersen see the writing on the wall and proactively leave Toronto? Certainly, he’d demand a healthy raise somewhere else from an organization more capable of offering it.
If that were the case, a number of other issues rise to the forefront. However, those issues are the content of another post.