Former Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie Frederik Andersen is having a career year. Now backstopping one of the NHL’s best teams, the Carolina Hurricanes, he is at or near the top of every netminder category in the NHL. The Big Dane was just named the first star after Carolina snapped the Anaheim Ducks eight-game winning streak. He is in the early discussions for the Vezina, and he is even smiling and sharing a few laughs with the media. Yes, Andersen has rebounded quite nicely after being dumped by Toronto. He is showing his old team they made a mistake giving up on him.
This story is not to say that Jack Campbell hasn’t been fantastic. There is no doubt he has been the MVP for the team to this point. The statistics show Campbell and Andersen are both in the top tier of goalies in the league. They were the first two netminders to reach the ten-win plateau; Andersen did it in 12 games, Campbell in 15 tries. That’s what makes this situation more perplexing. Two of the best goalies in the NHL could have both been playing for the blue and white. Instead, Toronto is putting all the pressure on Campbell, and there is no reliable backup.
Andersen Wanted to Stay with Maple Leafs
It didn’t have to be this way. In his season-ending interview last May, Andersen said his first order of business was to talk to Toronto’s general manager, Kyle Dubas. Due to the early exit from the playoffs, the front office had ample time to enter discussions with its pending free agents before other teams could sign them. However, the Maple Leafs made it clear Andersen was not welcome back; there was a leak that the goalie’s asking price was too high. With the writing on the wall, his image was removed from the Maple Leafs’ website design well before his contract ran out with the team.
The first indication that Toronto made an error was when the free-agent window opened, and Andersen was one of the first players to be signed. The second hint was which team signed him, the Hurricanes. A team that just fell short of a President’s Trophy win last season and is still considered a Stanley Cup favourite. If that wasn’t enough, the third clue that things were not as they seemed was the cash Andersen received, a two-year deal worth $9 million.
Hurricanes Had More Confidence in Andersen
What did the Hurricanes know that Toronto didn’t will always be the question. In the months leading up to Andersen’s departure, he spent more time with the highly-touted Maple Leafs’ training staff than ever before. He was rehabilitating a lower-body injury, his second one of the season, for more than six weeks. When he returned to action, he said he felt better than ever, and he repeated that statement during the season-ending interviews. The Maple Leafs, who spent five seasons with Andersen and had just nursed him back to health, should’ve known that was true.
But for some strange reason, Carolina knew better. Not only did they sign Andersen they let injury-plagued Petr Mrazek fall right in the lap of the Leafs. Mrazek only appeared in 12 games for the Hurricanes in the previous season. So far, he’s played five periods for Toronto, allowing seven goals and has sustained two injuries. He is still on the injured list.
Perhaps Toronto learned from Andersen’s experience not to rush goalies back. Remember, Andersen admitted he returned to action too soon last season after his first injury. He put his health at risk by doing so and his future as he posted the worst numbers of his professional career. Instead of getting rewarded for his commitment to his team, he was shown the door.
Maple Leafs Spent Money on the Wrong Goalie
Adding insult to injury, Toronto claimed not to have the money to meet Andersen’s demands but spent $3.8 million a season on a backup goalie with Mrazek. It’s not known what the numbers were on either side of the Toronto-Andersen negotiations. Still, surely Toronto could’ve found the $4.5 million to match Carolina. The numbers are clearly not adding up as the quarter mark of the season is quickly approaching.
|Frederik Andersen||$4.5 million per season||1.71 GAA/.941 SV%|
|Petr Mrazek||$3.8 million per season||4.20 GAA/.877 SV%|
|Jack Campbell||$1.65 million per season||1.63 GAA/.944 SV%|
Instead, Andersen was tossed away like garbage, and an elite team with a great front office and coaching staff happily picked up Toronto’s trash. On day one of the free-agent signing day, Don Waddell, the Hurricanes general manager, didn’t sound like a guy who just signed an unhealthy, unconfident goalie. On the contrary, it sounded like the franchise had secured the missing piece of their roster, “Frederik has been a starting goalie in this league and has an established track record…We believe that his experience will help us achieve further success.”
Sure, hindsight is 20-20, but the point is the people around Andersen for years, who saw his dedication to the team and his determination to come back stronger, should’ve known. However, Andersen had run his course in Toronto, the fan base had turned on him, and seemingly so did the front office. Ironically another whipping boy of Toronto fans, Jake Gardiner, had a lot to do with Andersen’s decision to join Carolina. This turn of events should not be a surprise. Anyone who has followed the seemingly cursed journey of the Maple Leafs had to know Andersen would bounce back better than ever – with another team.
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