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Did Maple Leafs Paint Themselves into a Corner with Samsonov?

Although the Toronto Maple Leafs salary arbitration with Ilya Samsonov turned out well for them financially, are other issues coming?

The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in an intriguing position following their recent arbitration settlement with Ilya Samsonov. Going to arbitration was a bit iffy for the team for two reasons. First, who knew what the final numbers might be? Second, given what seems to be a nastiness inherent in the process, would Samsonov emerge “wounded” or “angry” from the process?

Things seem fine now, but this season and how it unfolds will explain a lot when it comes to his future in Toronto.

There Were Some Wins in the Maple Leafs Process, However …

As it stands, the Maple Leafs re-signed Ilya Samsonov to a one-year deal worth $3.55 million. However, when Samsonov and the Maple Leafs went into the arbitration hearing, he was only eligible for a one-year award given his age and pending UFA status in 2024.

Iyla Samsonov Maple Leafs
Iyla Samsonov and the Maple Leafs had a “successful” arbitration – or, did they?

On one hand, the one-year contract signed with the talented Russian goalie was a good one financially-wise. The numbers landed pretty nicely for the Maple Leafs. However, the short term of the contract created a potentially tough scenario for the team. It brings forward a number of challenges for the near future.

Related: Three Reasons Why the Maple Leafs Love Calle Jarnkrok

With this contract, Samsonov now has the chance to show his skills as a consistent NHL goalie. It also sets the stage for what could be a new chapter in his career and in the future of the team. It lays the groundwork for his next contract negotiations; and, that process could prove to be a tricky one if he has a really solid season.

If Samsonov has a great season, he’d prove to be a valuable asset to the Maple Leafs. However, he would also prove to be hugely attractive to another team; a host of suitors will likely want to sign him. Here’s where the situation becomes complex. Samsonov might find himself in a great position to explore unrestricted free agency.

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs

For sure, he would draw high demand from other NHL teams. The Maple Leafs already face salary-cap issues and would face even more trouble. At the same time as they’d want to re-sign Samsonov, the team also has other key players entering free agency. How can they sign everyone to contracts that keep the team under the upper limits of the salary cap?

The Bottom Line

Although Samsonov’s current contract arrangement benefits the Maple Leafs in the short term, the team faces a potential issue rushing down the tracks. If he does well, they might have a tough time re-signing him and fitting him into their salary-cap structure.

The Maple Leafs might need to make a number of shrewd decisions to ensure their long-term success because they have to manage their salary cap. Let’s hope they haven’t painted themselves into a corner by only re-signing their goalie to a one-year contract.

Next: Matthews Four-Year Maple Leafs Contract Not a Sign of the Times

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