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Maple Leafs Big Question: What to Do With Ilya Samsonov?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a big question that calls for difficult consideration. What should they do with the goalie Ilya Samsonov?

In mid-December of 2023, goalie Ilya Samsonov found himself in a significant slump. The downward spiral was so overwhelmingly bad that it sparked concerns about his future as a quality goaltender for his Toronto Maple Leafs. Following a disappointing 6-5 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 29, Samsonov’s performance came under intense scrutiny. Over his four starts before that game, he had allowed a troubling 21 goals. Fans and hockey analysts began to raise doubts about his ability to perform at the NHL level – ever.

Ilya Samsonov of the Maple Leafs is facing possible demotion to AHL

Physically and mentally, Samsonov was struggling. Technical issues impacted his composure and effectiveness in the net. As the Maple Leafs grappled with potential solutions, including the possibility of placing Samsonov on waivers, the urgency of the goaltending situation became increasingly apparent.

Samsonov was eventually placed on waivers and passed through. He never reported to the AHL, but took time off for a re-set.

Samsonov’s Healthy Response in the Maple Leafs Nets in 2024

Despite the challenges he faced in December, Samsonov’s re-set worked. He responded with remarkable resilience in the early two months of 2024. Demonstrating a resurgence in form, he’s been instrumental in his team’s recent victories. At first, it seemed like a pleasant surprise. But, then he played well over and over again. He showed solid form between the pipes with a string of strong performances.

Next: Maple Leafs Return from the Lost: Jones, Matthews, Marner

Currently, he enters tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes riding four straight wins and seven victories in his last eight starts. He has re-solidified his position as a reliable force in goal. While his overall statistics still have room for improvement (his play was so poor that his statistics took a huge beating), particularly in save percentage and goals-against average, Samsonov seems to be showing that he can elevate his performance and contribute to the success of his Maple Leafs’ team.

Ilya Samsonov Maple Leafs 2
Ilya Samsonov Maple Leafs

The Dilemma of the Maple Leafs After the Season

Although it’s a long way away and lots can happen between now and the offseason, the end of the season will eventually come – for good or for ill for the Maple Leafs. If the Maple Leafs happen to win the Stanley Cup and Samsonov is the critical reason, life gets easy. The team will give him a raise and re-sign him (if they can).

However, if that isn’t the result, the Maple Leafs might face a critical decision regarding their goaltending situation. With Samsonov’s performance showing inconsistency and uncertainty this season, the team must evaluate their options moving forward. Given Samsonov’s one-year contract and the possibility of him walking to another team, the Maple Leafs must find a goaltender they can rely on consistently. Is it Samsonov; or, has he created a situation so tenuous that he might not be fully trusted with the task of carrying this team forward?

Joseph Woll is emerging as a promising candidate to address the team’s needs; and, the remainder of the regular season and the postseason will also reveal more about his status with the team as well. Sometime soon, the organization will try to figure it all out. And, that might involve a complex decision-making process.

Is Samsonov Part of the Maple Leafs’ Future?

The question for the Maple Leafs is this: How can the organization ensure they position themselves for success in the seasons to come? Ultimately, the future of the Maple Leafs goaltending situation remains uncertain. However, the choice of considering Samsonov as a piece of the team’s future will likely come up.

Will his December swoon become a problem he won’t be able to emerge from? Furthermore, where will the team’s leadership land in its strategic planning that involves him? How will they navigate the challenge that Samsonov has created with his up-down-and-up play this season?

Or, will the Maple Leafs simply let him walk to another team?

Related: The Maple Leafs Are Improving in Two Crucial Areas



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  2. afp1961

    February 22, 2024 at 7:06 am

    Jim – Surprisingly some NHL teams will see refreshed value in Samsonov and perhaps trade for him at the TDL. Not likley to get more than a 3rd or 4th for him but if that frees up 3.5M in cap and adds an asset, like a 3rd, that can be coupled with another minor piece and get you Fleury, I’d do it. I know this is a lot of pie in the sky thinking but the realty is, the leafs need a #2, assuming Woll comes back and regains his #1 status. Jones is not that guy, so as a default barring no other NHL ready goalie comes to the big smoke, Sammy must stay and then the leafs let him walk this summer.

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