Toronto Maple Leafs: Examining Frederik Andersen’s uncertain future

Frederik Andersen #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Frederik Andersen #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

There is a growing sentiment the Toronto Maple Leafs are in no rush to re-sign Frederik Andersen, meaning he may well be playing for his future in Southern Ontario next season.

When it comes to polarising players, we wouldn’t put Frederik Andersen on the same level as the likes of Mitch Marner and William Nylander. However, he has still been the subject of passion and opinion, ever since the Toronto Maple Leafs’ play-in series elimination at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Critics point to two goals Andersen allowed during the series which should never have been scored, including the crucial opening goal by Cam Atkinson in Game 1. Supporters will counter this by suggesting he didn’t get enough help from his teammates, with two scoreless games, including that same Game 1 where he played well enough to have deserved a win.

The naysayers will tell you the play-in series was the culmination of Andersen’s worst season in four years as the Leafs’ starter. This is countered by the argument that this was his best postseason series since coming to Toronto.

From our perspective Andersen is the Leafs’ best goaltender in years, even though he may still have some frustrating periods of inconsistency. He has the size and talent you ideally want between the pipes and arguably still has the ability to improve even further.

Regardless of this, the 30-year-old has apparently reached a crucial point of his career in Southern Ontario. There is a growing sentiment that the Leafs are in no hurry to re-sign him, despite having just one season left on his current contract.

That contract will see Andersen get paid $5 million in 2020-21 and he will likely demand a pay rise in his next deal. The Leafs may want more time to decide if he is worth such a pay rise, meaning he could effectively be playing for his future in Toronto next season.

We accept Andersen will likely need to have a better regular season compared to 2019-20 to help his case. At the same time however, you have to wonder if there is a comparable option out there for the Leafs to replace him with?

Sportsnet‘s Elliotte Friedman mentioned several potential options on Monday’s 31 Thoughts podcast. These options included Robin Lehner, Cam Talbot, Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Thomas Greiss and Anton Khudobin.

There is no denying Friedman’s excellent knowledge and reputation among NHL analysts. Of the options mentioned though, the only ones we would genuinely consider would be Lehner and Talbot.

As much as no one would doubt the talent of Lehner, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the current season. The main issue is that he will not come cheap and you can imagine considerable competition for his services.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

As for Talbot, there is a similar appreciation for his ability, but he is arguably no more talented than what the Leafs already have. He’s three years older than Andersen, and even though he’s enjoyed a resurgence of sorts this season, overall you still get the feeling his best years are behind him.

Moving forward, the Leafs have several options when it comes to Andersen, including attempting to move him either during the offseason or at some point before the 2020-21 trade deadline. They can also look to negotiate an extension sometime before his current deal expires, or just let him play out his contract and allow him to walk.

In deciding what to do, we appreciate the Leafs’ salary cap situation will play a significant role. This aspect is further compromised by the NHL’s decision to lock the cap for at least next season (and probably longer).

However, in terms of the cap, there will at least be an extra $10.55 million for the Leafs to use after this season. This is because Nathan Horton and David Clarkson, who have both been on long-term injured reserve, will become UFAs.

Ultimately, we would be extremely tempted to place our long-term faith in Andersen and try everything feasible to sign him to an extension. However, the reality seems to indicate the Leafs are going to go in another direction.

Trending. Pros and cons of Bruce Boudreau joining Leafs. light

If you were in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ position, what would you do with Andersen? Attempt to trade him, try to re-sign him, or let him play out the final year of his contract and allow him to walk? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.