Toronto Maple Leafs: The Impending Goaltending Problem

Frederik Andersen Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Frederik Andersen Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

With just a year left on his contract, the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have to make a choice with Frederik Andersen and their goalie position.

As the Toronto Maple Leafs are well aware, the goalie position is the most important one in the game of hockey. A good goaltender can be the difference between winning a Stanley Cup and not even making the playoffs – look no further than the role Marc-Andre Fleury played in leading the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final a few seasons ago.

For years, the Leafs rolled out subpar goalies such as Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala, forcing their fans to deal with inconsistent play at the position. That all changed when Frederik Andersen came along.

For the most part, Andersen has been a rock in between the pipes, leading the Leafs to three (and depending on how this season plays out, likely four) straight playoff appearances, more than any goaltender since Curtis Joseph. However, as he comes towards the final season of his contract, Toronto is drawing closer to what has the potential to become an uncomfortable situation.

Upon acquiring Andersen before the 2016 season, the Leafs promptly signed him to a five-year, $25 million extension. This deal expires at the end of the 2021 campaign.

Some fans were wary about giving a young goalie with just a little over 100 career starts such a large contract, but it has proven to be a bargain. Andersen has been a workhorse for the Leafs; his production has far exceeded his pay, meaning he will likely be looking for a significant raise after next season.

It’s no secret the Leafs are in a unique situation regarding their salary cap. The team has $39 million committed to their top four forwards until the 2024 season and will need to extend Morgan Rielly, their #1 defenseman, two seasons from now.

As it stands, the team has $68 million in cap space allocated to just 13 players going into the 2021-22 season, which is when a hypothetical Andersen extension would kick in. However, this is all assuming that the salary cap will stay consistent around $84 million.

In truth, nobody knows how the current COVID-19 situation will affect the salary cap. Most experts assume the upper limit will go down — Brian Burke has speculated it could even be cut in half! — and any cap reduction would seriously hamstring the Leafs’ ability to sign anyone, including their star goaltender.

Andersen will be 32-years-old going into the 2021-22 season. That’s not exactly young for a goaltender, especially one who has faced the type of workload he has over the past number of years.

Andersen’s likely looking at one more large pay-day in his career. There aren’t a ton of comparables around the league, but one player we can look at for an idea of what he may demand in a new deal is the aforementioned Fleury.

Fleury obviously has significantly more playoff success than Andersen, but regular season wise the two goalies are actually fairly similar in terms of career numbers. Fleury signed a three-year, $21 million contract as a 33-year-old in 2018.

This $7 million AAV is perhaps a higher average annual value than expected for a fewer number of years. However, this is a good starting point for figuring what sort of dollar number Andersen would command, likely in the three-to-five year range.