When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Petr Mrazek, it was determined he’d be the perfect tandem partner for projected starter Jack Campbell. Turns out he was anything but, and now he finds himself as a prime trade candidate to be shipped out of Toronto after just one season.
Mrazek battled injuries throughout the 2021-22 season and Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas needs more financial flexibility this offseason to address a number of things and is very likely trying to move Mrazek and his $3.8 million salary which covers the next two seasons. As we creep closer to the Stanley Cup Final, let’s examine three teams Dubas may be able to secure as a trade partner this summer.
There’s been some reports out there stating that the Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks are starting to emerge as trade partners again as apparently Dubas and Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson have smoothed things over since the debacle at the trade deadline. To refresh your memory, they were close to completing a blockbuster deal that would have landed Toronto both Marc-Andre Fleury and Brandon Hagel. Davidson leaked the offer and frankly it pissed off Dubas quite a bit. Now another deal could be in the works this summer.
If the relationship has been smoothed over, the Blackhawks do have a giant hole in their crease with no NHL-caliber goaltenders signed. They have quickly decided to rebuild after going for it last offseason and now Mrazek could be seen as a starter who won’t win too many games. When you’re trying to rebuild and hoard top draft picks, winning hockey games isn’t the most ideal strategy, so this is certainly something to watch in Chicago as the offseason unfolds.
Mrazek went 12-6-0 in 2021-22, posting a 3.34 goals-against average (GAA) and a .888 save percentage (SV%). A down season after impressing many teams in 2020-21 with his 2.06 GAA and .923 SV% when he was the starter in Carolina. Dubas will surely be pointing to his goalie’s stats from the past couple of seasons as he’s likely negotiating deals with several teams as the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue.
The Edmonton Oilers didn’t have good enough goaltending to win the Stanley Cup this season, so expect to see GM Ken Holland finally address his depth at that position this summer. 40-year-old starter Mike Smith couldn’t carry his weight for the team this spring and there’s been rumblings about a potential retirement. Backup Mikko Koskinen is likely finished in the NHL and could be heading back to Europe as early as next season. Holland could have his work cut out for him to create a goalie tandem and turns out he knows Mrazek very well from their time together with the Detroit Red Wings. Holland drafted Mrazek in the fifth round in 2010 and the netminder went on to play parts of six seasons in Motown.
The Oilers don’t have a ton of cap space to work with in the offseason, so Holland should have an interest in Mrazek. Considering Dubas and company will likely ‘give’ him away to any team just so they can create more financial flexibility, this could be a match made in summer trade heaven.
Free agency kicks off July 13, so both teams will have a better sense of their direction once the Cup is awarded. As a result, expect to see both of these teams active, and very likely with each other. We’ve see from Dubas what loyalty and familiarity means to the organization and Holland is much the same. The Oilers executive knows Mrazek very well and could be comfortable bringing him on board in Edmonton for the 2022-23 season.
New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald will be a busy man as his team is one to watch this offseason. They are loaded with over $25 million in salary cap space, the second overall draft pick and an interest to upgrade their hockey team into Stanley Cup Playoff contenders. The Devils have a need for another goalie to pair with one-time top prospect Mackenzie Blackwood and a veteran presence like Mrazek could go a long way. We saw what the Devils did late in the season bringing in Andrew Hammond for the very same reason.
The Devils and Maple Leafs have some trade history from the last time Dubas was looking to dump salary. New Jersey gladly took speedy winger Andreas Johnsson off his hands for only Joey Anderson who has appeared in just six NHL games in two seasons since the trade. It was purely a salary dump for Toronto, meanwhile Johnsson has become a top-nine forward for Fitzgerald who had 35 points this past season.
Keep an eye on New Jersey as they’ll be active as anyone this summer. The roster is young and not quite ready for stardom and legitimately contending for the Cup, so veteran free agents like Fleury and Darcy Kuemper are likely to say thanks but no thanks. On the other hand, Mrazek, who is only signed for the next two seasons at a reasonable average annual value, is a much likelier target for Fitzgerald and the Devils.
Maple Leafs Must Prioritize Campbell Over Mrazek
The biggest reason to move Mrazek off the books is to free up space to re-sign Campbell. The contract negotiations are apparently going nowhere as it’s likely ‘Soup’ wants somewhere close to $5 million annually, meanwhile until the Maple Leafs can clear some more cap space, that deal likely isn’t getting offered. It was obvious last season who the legitimate number one goalie was in Toronto and the team is in good hands keeping Campbell in their crease for the next few seasons.
As for Mrazek, Chicago and Edmonton appear to be likely destinations with New Jersey rounding out the top three. After a season to forget that included being waived half a season into a three-year contract, it’s obvious where the Maple Leafs’ hearts lie, so expect to see them make a trade very early this offseason.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween