In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll ask the question directly: “In a straight-up choice between Frederik Andersen and Zach Hyman, who would you choose?”
Second, I’ll consider the absence of conversation about David Rittich as a potential free-agent goalie signing for the Maple Leafs. And, third I’ll discuss the potential free-agent signings of two Toronto Marlies’ goalies – Joseph Woll and Veini Vehviläinen.
Item One: Quick Question: Frederik Andersen or Zach Hyman?
Let me start my first item with a quick question: If you had $4.5 million to spend on either a solid goalie like Frederik Andersen or a puck-digging winger with a motor that won’t quit like Zach Hyman, which would you choose? Which would help the team more during the coming season? Which would be the more difficult to replace? What would be the best move for the team?
In truth, although I might have missed it, I’ve not read about either a hockey writer or a hockey insider who put the question quite this way: Andersen or Hyman? If you could only choose one, who?
Item Two: Whatever Happened to Goalie David Rittich?
Even given the recent rumors that Andersen might stay with the Maple Leafs – a rumor I hope has legs, given limited resources and the need to re-sign their own internal UFAs to fill out a roster, I’m guessing the team will prize Hyman over Andersen as a signee. If that’s so, the Maple Leafs will need another goalie to play with (or back up) Jack Campbell. Who will it be?
Related: Teemu Selanne’s Unbreakable Record
One of the most interesting take-aways from Maple Leafs’ general manager’s postseason media interviews was the fact that David Rittich’s name never got a mention. I honestly believed – and wrote in a post just after Rittich came from the Calgary Flames – that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas targeted Rittich because he was thinking ahead that Andersen would likely be gone and former NHL All-Star goalie Rittich might be a long-term answer.
I still think Rittich is a goalie who could fit the team’s plans. Given the number of goalies on the free-agent market and having to re-sign in the age of COVID-19, he’ll come more cheaply than his expiring $2.75 million contract. The Maple Leafs still must limbo under the unchanged upper limits of a flat salary cap and must have a least a lingering doubt or two about Campbell’s endurance as a starter.
Rittich would probably sign a one-year contract to wait out the pandemic’s salary pushdown. He also fits into the team’s needs to find a goalie partner for Campbell next season, but would the Maple Leafs still want him?
Rittich logged playing time at the end of the 2020-21 regular season; but his work as a Maple Leafs’ goalie was forgettable. What intrigues me is that he’s a former all-star and such a vibrant character. I can only imagine the locker room and the public and if he were teamed with Campbell. It would be a rare duo of characters in the Maple Leafs’ net.
Still, the heights of the exuberance might also come with attendant lows. Rittich already faced the ire of Maple Leafs’ fans last season: is he up for more? Still, even if his heart says “No,” his head might tell him that signing a short-term, bet-on-himself contract with a team like the Maple Leafs might allow him to leverage a solid 2021-22 regular season into a higher contract somewhere else when fans start flooding back into the stands, which I predict they will.
Related: Do You Know Your NHL Goalie Trivia?
What I do know is that other free-agent goalies won’t come as cheaply. The team has Micheal Hutchinson, who might simply do a Groundhog Day this season playing the same role he did last season. And, unless there’s an outside chance Veini Vehviläinen is ready (remember him?), the Maple Leafs have no one in their system who seems close.
Still, I wonder why I haven’t heard a thing about Rittich during the postseason. I thought his name would be kicking around Maple Leafs’ rumors, but it hasn’t. We’ll see why in the next month.
Item Three: Re-Signing Two Toronto Marlies’ Goalies
Speaking about Veini Vehviläinen, the Maple Leafs are not the only team in the organization who have free agents. An article in The Leafs Nation a few days ago noted that the Toronto Marlies also had free agents to sign and named Marlies’ goalies Joseph Woll and Vehviläinen.
Joseph Woll is a restricted free agent (RFA) without arbitration rights. The Maple Leafs will likely qualify him, and he’ll sign. Woll is an enigma. He’s struggled as a pro after starring at Boston College and his transition to the Marlies has been tough. During his first pro season (2019-20), he posted a goals-against-average of 3.75 GAA and save percentage of .880 in 32 games. His 2020-21 season was a bit better, and with a goals-against-average of 3.54 GAA and save percentage of .892 in 15 games.
After his first Marlies’ season, Woll honestly admitted, “It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster. For the first time in my life, I had a lot of ups and downs that I had to deal with, but things like that make you better in the long run.”
Given Jack Campbell’s history, the Maple Leafs must believe you simply don’t give on a goalie with talent. Woll’s been working on his mental game and hopes it comes to match his physical talent. Right now, he’s just an eager young goalie trying to find his way. The organization will likely give him a couple more seasons to do that. At one time, he was thought to have the potential to become the Maple Leafs’ goalie of the future.
Veini Vehviläinen is the young Finnish goalie who came to the Maple Leafs from the Columbus Blue Jackets in March when the team traded Mikko Lehtonen. He’s a bit of a flyer for the Maple Leafs, who hope someone in the organization can eventually step into a starting goalie’s job. Could Vehviläinen be that goalie? The organization has added Erik Källgren and has Ian Scott floating around in the background, too. There’s hope one will step up.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Circling back to the beginning of the post, I’m intrigued by the choice between Andersen and Hyman. I hadn’t considered it so simply before, which I admit puts me behind many fans who read my THW contributions. I’m interested to know what readers think.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to hear I’m missing something obvious, which readers usually tell me quite quickly. By the way, have I said recently how much I appreciate the back-and-forth in the discussion section? Aside from the occasional “You’re old, ugly, and not very smart for a professor” (which I admit are tough to dispute), THW readers are a lively and informative group of fans.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf