As Elliotte Freidman tweeted today (see below), it isn’t clear how the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to “solve” their issue about signing amateur goalies to EBUG (Emergency Back-Up Goalie) contracts. Last night against the Florida Panthers, they did it yet again. I say “yet” again because they also did it against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
So, how come?
Where Do the Maple Leafs Roster Issues Come From
I must thank my regular writing colleague Stan Smith for helping me make sense of the Maple Leafs’ roster and goalie issues. Both issues come from a number of other issues all rolled together. First, let’s look at the overall roster issues.
In general, the Maple Leafs’ roster problem stems from their decision to carry nine defensemen after the trade deadline. They could not risk placing any of the newcomers on waivers. That decision left the team with only 12 forwards on their 23-player roster. When Noel Acciari was injured and Sam Lafferty could not play last night, the team was left with only ten forwards.
To make matters worse, playing Wayne Simmonds on Saturday meant that the team had to send Joseph Woll, the only player they could send to the minors without placing him on waivers, down to the minors.
On Monday, when Lafferty was deemed unfit to play, the Maple Leafs had a choice. They could have brought Woll in; or, they could have replaced Woll’s spot on the roster with Matthew Knies. That’s what they chose to do – the latter.
Related: So, What About Matthew Knies First Maple Leafs’ Game?
Three Options the Maple Leafs Might Choose From
Tonight the Maple Leafs are facing a difficult and specific decision as they prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second game of back-to-backs. The team has a few options to consider, each with its own set of pros and cons. I believe they must find a way to dress Woll or play an amateur goalie.
The first option is to play Samsonov, their starting goalie, in the game. However, playing Samsonov in back-to-back games is a huge risk. It increases the likelihood of injury or fatigue. The Maple Leafs should avoid this option to protect their starter. Don’t go there, I say.
The second option is to sign another goalie to a one-game amateur tryout and play him in the game. While this would make Samsonov the backup goalie, it could be difficult to find a suitable candidate at such short notice. Additionally, signing another goalie (other than an amateur) would require the team to make additional roster moves. Those would carry with them the potential to put them in a difficult cap situation. So, that’s unlikely. The amateur backup is the best option.
The third option is to sit Knies out to activate Joseph Woll. This would allow the team to have a backup goaltender without having to sign anyone new. However, sitting Knies out could be a tough decision. They still want to see what he can bring in his short time with the team. Not good, but better than playing Samsonov.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Tavares & Who’s in Goal?
Playing Samsonov Tonight Seems Like Insanity
If one of Noel Acciari or Sam Lafferty is healthy enough to play, the Maple Leafs could demote Knies on paper. That would create enough salary-cap space to activate Woll. However, if neither player is able to go, the team might need to dress ten forwards and eight defensemen in order to activate Woll. One possible solution could be to dress Conor Timmins, a defenseman, and play him as a depth winger.
In any case, the Maple Leafs need to carefully consider their options and make a decision that will give them the best chance to protect their players and manage their roster effectively.
The Bottom Line
The team’s cap situation has contributed to the problem. The Maple Leafs have been forced to dress amateur backup goalies to stay within the salary cap. The root cause of the problem lies in the team’s decision to carry nine defensemen and only 12 forwards.
From what I understand from listening to Freidman speak in an interview, the decision came down to leaving Woll in Toronto and signing Knies or bringing Woll on the road trip and not signing Knies until the regular season ended. The Maple Leafs chose the former.
The truth is also that Monday’s game had a big effect on the standings. Had they played an amateur goalie against the Panthers, both the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins would have been angry. They’re fighting for their playoff lives. And the Maple Leafs tossing a game to the Panthers would be a bad move.
For tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, they could play Adam Sandler in the net and no one would really care. It would certainly be better to play a Zamboni driver than play Samsonov and risk an injury.
Related: THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY IN MAPLE LEAFS’ 2-1 WIN VS PANTHERS
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