Earlier in the month, the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie had a huge change in personnel. With Jack Campbell leaving for the Western Conference finalists, Edmonton Oilers, the team had to change goaltenders.
The Leafs made two new additions for the main position and the backup with well-known names. Two-time Stanley Cup champion, Matt Murray was acquired from the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals‘ former backup Ilya Samsonov. A team like the Leafs, who are looking to get past the first round of the playoffs wants to step up from their past goalies, but this is a risk that looks like it is worth it.
Murray didn’t have the best time with the Senators when he was with the team. A set of injuries and problems keeping pace made his time at the nation’s capital not as impressive as it should have been. This is one of the worries that come with Murray. It’s tough to say who was the better goalie with him and Campbell, but Murray comes with a lot of playoff experience and leadership that is quite rare in 28-year-old goalies.
Campbell did play well for the Leafs. He stepped up and had two great years with the team without much of a past. If Murray goes back to how he played with the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ when he won back-to-back Stanley Cups then he will instantly become a better pickup. If not it at least gives the Leafs more time to pick up a goalie at the beginning of the season and see what options they have.
Samsonov was a needed upgrade for the Leafs’ backup goalie. While Petr Mrazek only had a .888 save percentage which showed that he could not be counted on as a backup goalie. Samsonov isn’t the most reliable goalie either, but being able to be above a .900 save percentage while with the Capitals is an on-paper showcase that he is a needed upgrade.
While on the topic of the Leafs’ new goalies, there is a need to talk about the Leafs’ defencemen. The Leafs’ defence is at its strongest while they have been a playoff team. The big issue is that when you compare it to the rest of the league and especially other Stanley Cup teams it still has major issues.
For a defenceman, one of their most important roles is their positioning. This has been a historical weakness for many players including assistant captain Morgan Rielly. A player who has a lot of offensive ability but fails a lot to maintain a smart and decisive area in which he positions himself effectively to stop an attack.
However, last year they had some of the best acquisitions to the team. They had former Calgary Flames and Seattle Kraken captain, Mark Giordano and former Arizona Coyotes defenceman, Ilya Lyubushkin. Both of these have added their own brilliance in positioning and relief to the goalie. But it wouldn’t last with Lyubushkin as he signed with the Buffalo Sabres during this offseason.
The new goalie situation doesn’t seem like much, at worst it could be an issue but at least it’s an issue that gave the GMs time, instead of a fast reaction like they are forced to do now. In terms of cap space, it also works well which is a huge issue for the Leafs and their big four players. What comes next year will be a decision on how the team moves forward without the legroom other teams have with the cap.
The most important decision for the team won’t be at the goalie position but make no mistake, that position can make or break teams, just look at the Stanley Cup finals. Let’s see if Murray makes the team or has to be replaced by Christmas.
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