Although it appeared to be a simple goalie swap, after Frederik Andersen signed with the Carolina Hurricanes and Petr Mrázek joined the Toronto Maple Leafs, there’s more to it than that. Despite similar tenures in the league and comparable career numbers throughout, Mrázek is clearly trending in a more successful direction at the moment.
It’s not to take away from Andersen’s contributions in a Maple Leafs sweater, as he played his part and achieved respectable numbers while in Toronto. However, for a team that’s hoping to reach new heights, this was a move that supports such elevation.
Breaking Down the Deals
From a financial perspective, it’s clear that Toronto negotiated more effectively than Carolina. Both athletes were unrestricted free agents and, therefore, had all the leverage they needed to cash in. Yet, Kyle Dubas was able to attract Mrázek at a discount, relative to what the Hurricanes agreed to pay Andersen.
Andersen’s new contract has him earning $4.5 million per in Carolina for the next two seasons, while Mrázek will cost Toronto a cap hit of $3.8 million through 2023-24. It may seem like a negligible amount, but every penny matters. Especially with a flat cap in place for the foreseeable future.
Having more money to work with is to every organization’s advantage, let alone one that is poised to make a push. Dubas has to stay prepared to support that goal in Toronto and an extra $700,000 available per year could improve his team in ways it otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.
Strictly Talking Similarities
Again, it may seem like each side basically replaced what they already had. Veteran goaltenders, proven to be capable of managing the workload asked of them and performing as needed while they do. Andersen and Mrázek have also suffered less than ideal streaks to their stat lines from time to time.
Through eight years in the NHL, having played with the Anaheim Ducks and Maple Leafs prior to becoming a Hurricane, Andersen has accumulated a record of 226-100-48. His goals-against average (GAA) is 2.65 and he owns a save percentage (SV%) of .915, with 19 shutouts to date.
Mrázek is now joining his fourth team, with his pre-Toronto experience including the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, and Hurricanes. He is currently 128-96-31, with a 2.59 GAA, .911 SV%, and 24 shutouts.
Neither has won a major individual award nor have they captured their first Stanley Cup, but that’s where the similarities cease. Mrázek being an upgrade starts to become a much more obvious observation when you dig a little deeper.
Where Things Begin to Differ
Age doesn’t always align with performance, but it’s no secret that having a younger veteran presence comes with added advantages. Mrázek at 29 feels much more ideal than Andersen nearing 32. Even though goalies tend to age better than their colleagues, the nominal difference between these two could influence each franchise’s future in very different ways.
Obviously, infusing more seasons of peak play into a lineup benefits the respective club. Mrázek rewinds time for Toronto, whereas an older Andersen will be battling to regain his composure in Carolina.
It goes without saying that a player’s full scope of work deserves recognition. However, what someone has done of late often matters most, as it’s a better indicator of the direction they’re headed. As such, an analysis of more recent results paves separate paths for these netminders.
Throughout the 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21 seasons, Andersen collected a GAA of 2.83, a SV% of .911, and four shutouts — facing regression across all major categories. Mrázek, on the other hand, accumulated a 2.48 GAA, .911 SV%, and 10 shutouts in that same span — progressing in all columns.
Injuries kept both goalies out for much of last season, as Mrázek missed two months recovering from thumb surgery. Yet, his ability to bounce back and perform as he did upon his return should be highlighted for all the right reasons. Beyond the shutout earned in his first game back, Mrázek went 4-1-3 to cap off the campaign. Meanwhile, Andersen lost six of his final seven.
Mrazek had an injury-plagued season in 2020-21, when he logged a 6-2-3 record. However, he also had three shutouts with a .923 save percentage for the Hurricanes. In contrast, during Andersen’s injury-plagued Maple Leafs’ season, his save percentage was .895.
The picture comes into further focus when we look at their goals saved above expected (GSAx) throughout this past year. Andersen’s -4.8 had him closer to the bottom of the pack, while Mrázek’s 7.1 earned him a spot among the league’s best. Far from being just another number, this stat illustrates a goalie’s direct impact as opposed to the fractional part they play within an overall team effort.
Familiarity Forces the Advantage
Who else happened to be near the top of the GSAx leaderboard last season? None other than Mrázek’s new teammate, Jack Campbell. Both landed in the top 10, of the nearly 100 goaltenders ranked in that respect. A great foreshadow of what this tandem is capable of, as the Maple Leafs hope to push their plan further along.
That said, Mrázek and Campbell being equally familiar with a 1A/1B type of starter strategy is a best-case scenario for Toronto. These professionals know that the net is on the line. With their performances dictating who plays next, it’s safe to assume they’ll be at their best more often than not.
Elevating as individuals will mean their value and impact towards the collective rises, as well. Everyone involved wins with Mrázek as a Maple Leaf.
All in all, while it could otherwise appear like the Hurricanes effectively replaced what they lost as the Maple Leafs did much of the same, the facts present a different reality. One that suggests Toronto is on the better end of this comparison, with an opportunity to trend in a much more successful direction as a result.
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.
Find more of my work at mralwayswrite.com.