Leafs trade Freddie Andersen
With one year left on his current deal, it’s not a surprise Toronto Maple Leafs are rumored to be shopping him. However, can anyone do better than Andersen given the Maple Leafs poor defensive capabilities? Photo NHLi/Getty Images

Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t waste time moving pieces in the off-season, trading Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In return, they got a first-round draft pick and freed up much-needed cap space to try to re-sign defenseman Travis Dermott. After losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets during the extended playoff format, it was not a surprise to see activity in Toronto, and it doesn’t look like the overhaul is finished yet either. Rumors have begun circulating that it is possible the Maples Leafs trade Freddie Andersen in one of the more bizarre offseason moves.

Andersen has been the Maple Leafs starting goaltender since 2016, when they traded a first and second-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for the then restricted free agent. In the four years since, Andersen has posted a .916 save percentage (SV%) with 2.77 goals allowed (GAA).

The 2019-20 shortened regular season was Andersen’s worst, with a .909 SV% and 2.85 GAA, but in the five postseason games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he posted a .936 SV% and 1.84 GAA. The fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs lost that series was never on Andersen.

So why would the Maple Leafs trade Freddie Andersen?

One reason could be his contract. Andersen will make $5 million for one more year before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2021. It’s no secret that because of the contracts currently occupied by Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, and Auston Matthews, the Maple Leafs are looking for team-friendly deals elsewhere. Lifting $5 million off your cap could help build a bottom four defensive pairing to play behind Morgan Reilly and Jake Muzzin. It could also put you in play for Alex Pietrangelo, who looks likely to test free agency when it opens.

For Toronto, the problem is, if they trade Freddie Andersen who takesover as starter? Jack Campbell was acquired by the Maple Leafs back in February but has never been a starting goaltender in the NHL. In Los Angeles, he was back up to Jonathan Quick who despite a decline in recent years takes much of the pressure on his shoulders as the starter. Campbell has only started more than 30 games in a season once, during the 2018-19 season.

Leafs trade Freddie Andersen
Jack Campbell is a serviceable backup and even Dubas can’t think he’s an NHL starter. Photo: GRAHAM HUGHES/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Kyle Dubas acquired Campbell as Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds general manager in 2011 and probably has an affinity with the player. However, even Dubas has to know Campbell is not an NHL starter. Serviceable backup, maybe but not a starter. Giving him the benefit that he is aware of this if you trade Andersen, an NHL starter will be needed to replace him. Unfortunately, they don’t just grow on trees. However, there are a few options Dubas could look at in the unrestricted free agent market this offseason.

Anton Khoudobin has had a playoff to remember with the Dallas Stars. The Russian Goaltender has been a perennial backup his entire career, but with Ben Bishop injured, the Stars have had to rely on Khoudobin for most of this year’s playoffs. With a 2.72 GAA and 0.917 SV%, the numbers don’t quite live up to Andersen’s, but he’s also played twenty more games. As an unrestricted free agent, he could be a cheaper option than Andersen, coming over a $2.5 million AAV deal with Dallas.

However, given how far the Stars have gone in the Playoffs, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if a team overpaid Khoudobin based off one year. At 34 years old, he is nearly four years older than Andersen, and like Campbell, Khoudobin has been a backup for the majority of his career. Will Toronto be one of the teams blinded by a deep playoff run?

The biggest unrestricted free agent goaltender this offseason will be Braden Holtby. The Washington Capitals shot-stopper is coming off a five-year $6.1 million AAV contract. With only $9 million in cap space, the former Stanley Cup champions have a decision to make. Toronto could make a move given Holtby is coming off a career-low year and look to sign him at a cheaper rate. Holtby had a 3.11 GAA during the regular season and was often outplayed by rookie Ilya Samsonov in the Washington net. How they get him lower than the $5 million Freddy is getting is anyone’s guess.

Leafs trade Freddie Andersen
Unrestricted Free Agent Braden Holtby could be an option but is he going to save you money to help build a defense? (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Another unrestricted free agent option is Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks. While it looks as though the Canucks will re-sign their starting goaltender, after watching Thatcher Demko’s performances against the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs, they could be hesitant to overpay. Markstrom is coming off a three-year $3.6 million deal, and at 30, will be looking at this contract to be the big one.

Vancouver is aware that they have Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson becoming restricted free agents after next season and will not be looking to break the bank.

While all three goaltenders mentioned could do a job for the Toronto Maple Leafs, you also have to think that nothing will change if they continue to be defensively poor.

It’s obvious they need help defensively, and before the Maple Leafs trade Freddie Andersen they should be asking themselves, “if I don’t improve defensively will any goaltender perform better than Andersen?” The answer is most likely no. At least not for under $5 million.