It started early this morning, when Kevin Weekes was reporting that the Toronto Maple Leafs were about to sign 29-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek to a three-year contract. When I first heard this news, I had to smile. So many Maple Leafs’ fans – in their disappointment and pessimism about the future of the team going forward – ironically said the team should bring back the Zamboni diver. This is about the closest thing to it.
As Maple Leafs’ fans will recall, it was Mrazek’s injury that forced David Ayres, the Zamboni driver who filled in as an emergency backup for the Maple Leafs, to take the ice on Feb. 22, 2020, and help the Hurricanes beat the Maple Leafs that evening. There’s something ironic about that. I’m sure it won’t be the last time fans will hear this reference.
About the Mrazek trade, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox reported that UFA Mrazek has agreed to a three-year contract with the Maple Leafs to the tune of $3.8 million annually. That’s a salary-cap savings of $1.2 over what former starting goalie Frederik Andersen had made during his last Maple Leafs’ contract. Fox also reported that Andersen would be signing with the Hurricanes, completing a UFA goalie swap.
Two things seem good about this signing. First, Mrazek is used to playing in a 1A/1B duo. Given what I’ve seen of last-season’s emerging goalie star Jack Campbell, that would seem to suit him just fine. In Mrazek, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas found what seems like a competent partner for Campbell. Now let the internal battles in net begin. Campbell had a great season during 2020-21, and would seem like the front-runner.
In a way, it’s sad to see Andersen leave. However, moving Andersen and replacing him with Mrazek will likely eliminate any possibility of the tension that might have been hanging around if Andersen had stayed. Nice for all parties to start fresh.
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. Mrazek had lost his starting job to the younger Alex Nedeljkovic, but Nedeljkovic was traded to the Detroit Red Wings.
The second good thing is that Mrazek comes at a savings. As Fox reported, once Toronto signs their new goalie, the team will have about $5.5 million left in its salary-cap budget. Fox believes Dubas will next set his sights on left-winger Michael Bunting.
Item Two: Frederik Andersen Looking to Flip-Flop with Mrazek
We finally know where former Maple Leafs’ starter Frederik Andersen has signed. And, that’s with the Carolina Hurricanes. Here’s what The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported early.
Then, over the past half hour, Elliotte Friedman reported that the Hurricanes gave Andersen a two-year contract worth $4.5 million per season.
Given the news that the Maple Leafs just signed Mrazek, heading to Carolina makes perfect sense for Andersen. In fact, one wonders – looking back – if this wasn’t the Hurricanes’ plan all along and that’s why Nedeljkovic was moved to the Red Wings in what seemed like a steal of a deal for Red Wings’ general manager Steve Yzerman.
Certainly things were quiet on the Andersen front for a while, but there had been some word was that Andersen’s agent and the Maple Leafs had been talking. Still, the signs were that Andersen was leaving. Given, as noted early, the possible tension that might have remained if Andersen had stayed, it seems better to wipe the slate clean and restart with Mrazek.
Looking back over Andersen’s more recent tenure with the team, it has to be a bit sad that he lost his job to Campbell through an injury that allowed former backup Campbell the space to put together a record-setting 2020-21 season’s start. At the end, when Andersen didn’t suit up for the Maple Leafs during the playoffs, it seemed pretty clear he was gone.
With Andersen, if things revert to normal, the Hurricanes have a starting goalie who’s capable of leading them to the playoffs. But, as Maple Leafs’ fans might caution, after that – hmmm. Still, no doubt, the Hurricanes believe he’ll be an upgrade on what they could put in net last season.
Wishing Andersen Luck in His New Carolina Home
Andersen has been more than a capable starting goalie for the organization. He’s actually been one of the best goalies in Maple Leafs’ history. He’s been a classy professional and the team has benefitted from his solid play over the seasons. I personally wish him well in his new future with the Hurricanes.
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