The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators in a trade on Monday and that all but confirmed that their starter Jack Campbell was going to hit free agency. Murray has had trouble in his career staying healthy and Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas picked up backup Wednesday when Ilya Samsonov agreed to a free agent contract to a one-year and $1.8 million.
Samsonov was a restricted free agent (RFA), but the Washington Capitals did not give him a qualifying offer, which allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and Dubas swooped in a got him.
Samsonov is a Good Option for Toronto
As mentioned above, with Murray’s injury history, it was necessary for Dubas to find a suitable backup plan and he found in the 22nd overall pick of the 2015 Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals. Last season, Samsonov was 23-12-5 in the regular season with a 3.02 goals against average (GAA) and a .896 save percentage (SV%). For his career with the Capitals in 89 games, he was 52-22-8 in the regular season with a 2.81 GAA and a .902 SV%. The postseason was a struggle for the 25-year-old going just 1-6 with a 2.98 GAA and a .902 SV%.
With a Murray/Samsonov tandem in Toronto between the pipes, it would not surprise anyone if Samsonov becomes the long-term solution over the veteran Murray. Samsonov is young and at the right age where goaltenders can distinguish themselves and their careers in the NHL and the Maple Leafs hope that will be the case if he has a strong season.
Maple Leafs Had to Make Moves After Stalling With Campbell in Negotiations
Once contract negotiations with Campbell stalled, Dubas was proactive in finding not only his replacement, but an experienced backup to form a duo. Murray backbone the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, but he is not the same goalie now as he was then. Samsonov led the Capitals to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and maybe a change of scenery will be good for him and Murray.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agent Signing Tracker
Moving on from Campbell was a tough decision for the Maple Leafs as he played well in the last couple of seasons for them, but if Murray can turn around his career in 2022-23 in Toronto with a young and experienced goalie in Samsonov with him, it could have the makings of a duo to get them over the top. There will be a lot of pressure on both of them heading into this upcoming season, but the pieces are there for Toronto to get over the hump and win.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.