Maple Leafs’ Goaltending Situation Needs to Be Solved ASAP

There are numerous challenges ahead for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ new general manager (GM) Brad Treliving. The first is finding a way to make Auston Matthews happy and assure him that the team is ready to take the next step in its development. The second is deciding if Sheldon Keefe is going to be his head coach.

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Next in line has the be the goaltending situation. Currently, the team’s roster consists of two goalies – Matt Murray and Joseph Woll. Ilya Samsonov’s present contract is ending and he’s a restricted free agent (RFA) with arbitration rights as of July 1. 

Joseph Woll Seems to Be a Lock for One of the Two Goalie Spots

Woll is a lock for one of the two spots on the roster. He literally played his way onto the team with his performance in both the regular season and the playoffs. 

Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Joseph Woll, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

One other factor at play with Woll is he’s no longer waiver exempt. If the Maple Leafs were to attempt to send Woll to the team’s American Hockey League’s (AHL) Toronto Marlies, he would have to clear waivers. With what he has shown to this point and at a salary-cap hit of just $766,667, there’s no way he would go unclaimed.

Both Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov Pose Potential Problems

Both of the other two goalies pose potential problems for the organization.  

Murray was the disaster many people predicted he would be the minute former Maple Leafs’ former GM Kyle Dubas acquired him. He might play well, but he just wasn’t able to stay healthy. It would be a massive gamble to hope that he could even play a backup role next season.   

Related: Tension Mounts as Matthews Rumored Deal Jams Up Maple Leafs

Getting Samsonov signed to a new deal would be the better option; however, when it comes to his situation there is one word here that scares the bejeebers out of teams – arbitration. The arbitration process can get ugly. 

What happens in these cases is that the player and his agent present arguments to an independent arbitrator as to why the player should get paid what they think he should. That is usually a much higher amount the team feels he should get. In return, the team argues why the player should get paid a much lesser amount. 

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If the arbitrator rules in favour of the player, the team has the choice of paying the player that amount or letting him walk. In the past, it is common that relationships between the player and the team will sour over the process of arbitration. It would be better if the process could be avoided altogether. 

Money Is the Biggest Obstacle to the Murray vs. Samsonov Dilemma

The biggest obstacle to the whole Murray vs. Samsonov problem is money. More specifically, it’s Murray’s contract. The Maple Leafs are on the hook for a cap hit of $4.69 million for Murray this upcoming season. To make matters worse, Murray is owed $8 million in actual pay.  

Related: Ex-Maple Leafs Goalie Michael Hutchinson: Where’s He Now?

While trading Murray and his contract is not impossible, it will be extremely difficult to come up with a taker, and would most likely cost the team a lot in incentives to make the deal happen. Maple Leafs’ fans will remember the team having to attach a first-round draft pick to a trade that divested themselves of the last year of Patrick Marleau’s contract.

Any deal involving Murray would undoubtedly have to include salary retention. Most likely the Maple Leafs would have to pony up the maximum 50 percent allowed, if not more. It might also involve the addition of another team into the process and the loss of more assets.

Matt Murray Toronto Maple Leafs
Matt Murray, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Another option would be buying Murray out. According to, the cost to do that would be $687,500 in cap space for the 2023-24 season, and another $2 million in cap space for the 2024-25 season. If they decide to go that route, the buyout window happens in the last two weeks of June. That decision would have to be made soon. 

The best option for the Maple Leafs would be if Murray was deemed physically unable to play next season. In that case, his whole contract could be placed on long-term injured reserve. The threshold for that seems to be pretty low, but Murray would have to agree to it. 

Related: Vancouver Canucks Calling: Carey Price, Please Come Home

In an ideal world, the Maple Leafs could find a way to remove Murray’s cap hit from the roster and use that money to pay Samsonov. The worst-case scenario would be the Maple Leafs not finding a way to remove Murray’s cap hit. There would be no way they could afford to have both Murray and Samsonov’s contracts on the books. 

What If the Maple Leafs Decided to Part Ways with Both Goalies?

If the Maple Leafs were to decide, for whatever reason, to part ways with both Samsonov and Murray, there are few quality goalies out there who might be available. The ones that are could get scooped up quickly.

Ilya Samsonov Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Samsonov, Toronto Maple Leafs (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

There are many reasons why the Maple Leafs need to get the goaltending situation figured out and figured out quickly. Likely this dilemma has already been a topic of discussion within the new management team of the Maple Leafs. Fans will likely know quickly what the decision will be. We can’t imagine a plan is not already in place. 

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]

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