The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to be in a precarious situation in regards to their goaltending situation. Starter Jack Campbell remains without a contract and while both sides are talking, he remains unsigned.
If Campbell remains unsigned and tests the market to sign with another team, the Maple Leafs have a major hole to fill. There’s the possibility of making a trade to try and bring in a name like John Gibson or they can look to the free agent market. While the market isn’t strong, there’s one name that’s available that they could’ve had at the trade deadline in Marc-Andre Fleury.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported before the trade deadline that the Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks had a potential deal in the works, but nothing amounted to it as the Maple Leafs didn’t want to part ways with Matthew Knies and Fleury didn’t waive his no trade clause.
Even though nothing was finalized, it would be interesting to see the Maple Leafs circle back and target Fleury if re-signing Campbell falls through. He still wants to play and will have a long list of suitors for his service. He could very well be a valuable asset for the team in the crease to make a deep playoff run.
Fleury the Answer Over Campbell?
While he may not be the Fleury of the past, he has shown that he can still play and be a difference maker in goal. Though, this season may have clouded some doubt over his play. Though, when he’s on a good team, the results are there.
One season after posting a stellar .928 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average winning the Vezina Trophy, Fleury seemed to have average numbers this season. He was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks where he was standing on his head most nights posting a .908 SV% and 2.95 GAA.
The Blackhawks were by no means the strongest team during this season as they were 30th in five-on-five Corsi For percentage with 45.98 and 31st in goals for percentage with 42.69. Eventually, he was dealt to the Minnesota Wild in hopes of a deep playoff run only to lose in five games to the St. Louis Blues. Despite the struggles this season and playing on a bottom dweller team for most of it, Fleury still showed that he can play at an above average level in this league with a good team in front of him. With the Wild, he posted a better GAA at 2.74 and average .910 SV%.
Looking at his underlying numbers among goalies with 500 minutes, Fleury overall had decent results as his goals saved above average (GSAA) at five-on-five was 4.80 and his high danger save percentage was .816. In comparison to Campbell, he had a 1.71 GSAA and .786 HDSV%. Fleury had better numbers on a team that wasn’t poised to do a whole lot this season while Campbell posted those numbers on a team that broke a franchise record in wins and points.
Fleury has the results in the regular season, but also the pedigree and playoff experience that the Maple Leafs need in order to find success and make a deep run. While Campbell has thrived and played well, Fleury has a longer and more accomplished resume when it comes to the postseason. While he hasn’t seen much success in the postseason lately, he’s a three-time Stanley Cup Champion and that could be what motivates the Maple Leafs to try and target him.
Maple Leafs Have Strong Defense Outside of Crease
Despite what some may say, the Maple Leafs continued to show improvements defensively. Yes, there were times where they collapsed and had bad games, but they showed that they can bounce back, buckle down and play a strong shut down style when they needed to.
Even in the playoffs, they were ranked top-10 in goals against per game with 3.29 and top-five in shots against per game with 30.7. While the numbers may not show it and a lot are going to think that because those numbers are meaningless as they didn’t advance, the Maple Leafs showed that they can play responsibly when they have the chance in front of their goalie.
Jake Muzzin dealt with some inconsistencies and injuries this season, but managed to turn things around and be that heavy hitting defender in the playoffs that many wanted to see all season. T.J. Brodie is a great transitional defender and breakout passer and re-signing veteran Mark Giordano is a big addition to stabilize the backend. Then there’s keeping Timothy Liljegren in the fold who took a major step forward with his development.
If the Maple Leafs can add another right-shot defender on the second pairing, they will be better equipped defensively to play a consistent and reliable game in front of Fleury if he does decide to sign with the team. After all the question marks in the past, they would improve at both positions and may finally find that stability in both areas.
If the Maple Leafs continue to tinker with their roster and having a still steady and quick Fleury in net, it could be the difference maker in the Maple Leafs making a deep playoff run. While an elite goaltender can win you a championship, as we saw this postseason from the Colorado Avalanche in the playoffs, having above average goaltending is all a team needs if they’re strong outside of the crease. Having an above average Fleury could do just that.
Maple Leafs Can Fit Fleury in at Right Price
Fleury has still shown to be competitive in the crease, though being a consistent Vezina Trophy threat may be behind him. Now that he’s a free agent, Fleury’s cap hit of $7 million may not warrant that same kind of dollar value. Before he signed his recent contract with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019, he previously had a cap hit of $5.75 million and he was still among one of the top goalies in the league.
Given that Fleury is 37 years old, could his price drop down with a team’s ambition of having playoff success with him as the starter? It’s always possible. We’ve seen them sign veterans before to a cheaper deal with success in the past in Jason Spezza and Mark Giordano. Fleury could be another one.
Whether or not he remains cheaper than what Campbell is currently asking for, you know exactly what you’re getting with Fleury. Campbell is a late bloomer and while he has looked great at times, there has been some inconsistencies to his game which makes signing him to a high price wary for some. Overpaying for him may not be the best thing as that could hurt them financially as they’re already dealing with a bad contract in net with Petr Mrazek.
Should Campbell test the market and sign elsewhere, the Maple Leafs should do everything they can in order to sign Fleury and get him under contract for the right price. With his history and accolades, he could be the guy in net to push them forward.
Sign up for our regular ‘Maple Leafs Newsletter’ for all the latest.
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.