The Toronto Maple Leafs were rescued by the Chicago Blackhawks on Draft Day. Toronto was able to move Petr Mrazek and his entire salary to Chicago. All it cost Leafs’ general manager, Kyle Dubas, was a measly 13 draft spots. Lost in this story was the human side. A person was given up on by an organization which welcomed him with open arms 12 months earlier. A team so desperate to get rid of him they shopped a first-round pick to make it happen. Mrazek spoke for the first time since being traded, and he didn’t stick to the usual speaking lines.
The Chicago media had a Zoom call with the 30-year-old nearly 3 weeks after being traded. Unlike Toronto, which immediately puts players in front of the media before the ink is dry on a contract, Chicago gave Mrazek time to ponder before talking to reporters. Unfortunately, the time didn’t seem to soften the blow. Usually, a freshly traded or signed player will talk about their new team; he got to that but also addressed the transaction. “It’s always difficult to hear the news to be moved,” was Mrazek’s first words to the media as a Blackhawks goalie.
The reporter asked him for his reaction to the trade and his thoughts on joining a new team. Most media-trained players will jump on the second part of that question to appeal to the new team and the fanbase. He got to those lines, but during the same answer came back to the Maple Leafs, “the news was difficult because you sign a three-year deal in Toronto, but like I said, number one thing is for me to stay healthy.”
A Healthy Mrazek in 2022-23
Despite talking mainly about his improved health, he would not bite on questions asking if he has something to prove. “I’m always motivated every single year, every single game I play. I don’t think there’s something to prove,” said Mrazek. “Injuries happen in hockey careers to everyone, and last year especially, it was the year that I wasn’t able to stay healthy.”
Doesn’t this sound familiar? Just one year ago, Dubas turned his back on Frederik Andersen after an injury-filled season produced his worst career stats. Andersen went on to put up Vezina-like numbers in Carolina before being injured. Yes, he was hurt again, but the Hurricanes did a poor job of load management on their number one goalie. Now, Mrazek believes he is back to healthy and ready to go. There is no doubt that Mrazek’s performance in Toronto was horrible. He put up his worst season in his 10-year career, and he certainly wasn’t worth the $3.8 million he was paid. However, his last season was not reflective of his NHL career, and now he seems poised for a comeback.
Even more questionable about this situation is that Dubas decided to go all in on a goalie who was injured for most of last season. Matt Murray was such a disappointment in Ottawa that the Senators gave Toronto draft picks and kept 25% of his pay just to get him off the books. Despite the reduced salary, Toronto still pays Murray more than they would’ve paid Mrazek.
Mrazek Can Prove Maple Leafs Wrong
Mrazek says it’s a business, and we all know it is, but there is a human side. He was excited to join Toronto a year ago. His first press conference as a Maple Leafs had a different tone from his first in Chicago. While he says he has nothing to prove, he has the chance to show Dubas and the Maple Leafs that they were wrong. And in this business, that is a lot of motivation.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.