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Time to Re-Sign Samsonov and Make Him Maple Leafs Starter

The Toronto Maple Leafs got good goalie play from Ilya Samsonov last season. Why should he be re-signed and named the starter?

As I’m writing this post, the Vegas Golden Knights have taken a 6-1 lead into the third period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. They will win the Cup tonight. But, first I want to think about the Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and the postseason he’s had.

When he was good this postseason, he was REALLY good. He stole the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and led his Panthers to a sweep of another solid team – the Carolina Hurricanes. He was trending toward the Conn Smyth winner.

Then things fell apart for some reason. The clock had struck mid-night and the stallions had turned into mice.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumours: Schenn, Acciari, ZAR & Simmonds

Goaltending Is the Key Position and Most Puzzling

Bobrovsky’s sudden return to earth after three rounds of greatness does not diminish his tremendous run – at least not much. For any NHL team, the position of goalie is undoubtedly one of the most critical positions in on the team.

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs

If a team has a reliable and talented goalie, that player can put up a wall and can stop almost anything. A good goalie can be the backbone of any team. He can both stop pucks himself but also provide the necessary confidence and stability so that his team can compete at their highest level.

Ilya Samsonov Isn’t There Yet, But He Could Be

The Maple Leafs have been searching for a long-term solution in goal for several seasons. I’m not saying that the search is over; however, I am saying that the team should put some faith in the goalie who led them this past season: that goalie was Ilya Samsonov.

I believe he has the potential to grow into the goalie the team needs to get over the hump and make a long postseason run. He showed potential throughout the regular season and even during the postseason. A case can be made that he outplayed one of the great playoff goalies of all time – Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Related: Maple Leafs Quick Hits: Yes or No on ZAR, O’Reilly & Holl?

Samsonov Had a Solid First Season with the Maple Leafs

Samsonov’s performance during his first season with the Maple Leafs was nothing short of impressive. Coming off a disappointing season with the Washington Capitals, where he struggled with inconsistency and high-pressure moments, Samsonov arrived in Toronto as an unknown.

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs

But he brought with him a renewed energy and even a good sense of humor. He isn’t the affable Jack Campbell, but he might be the Russian version. He seized his opportunity; and, to me, he proved his worth. I believe he solidified himself as a key component of the team’s success. The team seemed to like playing in front of him.

Samsonov Had A Solid Regular Season

In his 42 games played in 2022-23, Samsonov showcased his talent and potential. He posted a strong .919 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against-average. He made crucial saves and kept the Maple Leafs in games. I won’t say he gave the team a chance to win every night. But, almost.

It was more than the regular season. Samsonov was also solid during the Maple Leafs’ first-round playoff series against a team that had been the Stanley Cup finalist in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Samsonov played a big role in Toronto’s series win. That the team faltered against the Panthers in the second round was more to Bobrovsky’s credit than Samsonov’s failure.

Time to Re-sign Samsonov and Entrust Him in the Crease

I believe the Maple Leafs should re-sign Samsonov and entrust him with the role of their starting goalie moving into next season. To me, Samsonov has proven his ability to handle the pressure, deliver consistent performances, and make key saves when it matters.

Last season, the Maple Leafs’ commitment to total team defense benefited Samsonov. If the team continues to show a dedication to playing responsibly in its own zone, it will limit high-quality scoring chances for opponents. Samsonov thrived in this system. He was able to showcase his athleticism, positioning, and ability to track the puck. Let him do it again.

If the Maple Leafs Re-Sign Samsonov, They Know What They’re Getting

The potential re-signing of Samsonov gives a talented goalie. It also demonstrates the team’s commitment to its young core. Players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander in their prime. They all had good seasons playing with Samsonov.

Samsonov has been reliable between the pipes. He’s likely to continue to grow.

How Much Would It Cost to Re-Sign Samsonov?

In terms of contract negotiations, Samsonov’s play has earned him a significant pay raise from his current $1.8 million deal. However, while the Maple Leafs must consider their salary cap situation and the need to maintain a balanced roster, signing Samsonov makes sense.

The word from Evolving Hockey is that the projection is that Samsonov will probably sign for about $5 million for about four years. To make that happen, the team will have to make some moves. Likely trying to trade Matt Murray would be one of them. That would free up enough salary-cap space to sign Samsonov.

The Bottom Line

From my perspective, re-signing Samsonov and making him the starter aligns with the team’s long-term goals. He has the talent, the potential for growth, and the ability to perform under pressure.

If Samsonov continues his development, there’s a huge potential upside. If he’s good, the Maple Leafs can solidify the goalie position for years to come. I believe it’s worth the chance.

But who knows with goalies. By the way, the Golden Knights did win the Stanley Cup and a goalie was not the Conn Smythe winner.

Congratulations to Jonathan Marchessault.

Related: So What’s the Deal with Maple Leafs’ Coach Sheldon Keefe?



  1. gfinale

    June 14, 2023 at 4:46 am

    Samsonov wasn’t the reason the Leafs lost the second round in pathetic fashion, that’s all on the Corpse 4. Still, he was mediocre and certainly didn’t win one for them. Woll was significantly better, not that I’m suggesting him. No, I suggest the Leafs get a REAL, PROVEN NHL starter with good playoff experience. I’ve been saying the same about a GM and coach for several years now too. There’s probably something like a 5% chance an unproven does well in the playoffs and a REAL PROVEN 65+%. It’s never 100% but which do you pick, 5% or 65+%? I go with the best chance. You pick 5% injured way too often and played poorly for 2-3 years before Murray. You go with 5% Samsonov. If the Leafs address this Corpse 4 fiasco finally, they will have the cap to build a proper team.

  2. gfinale

    June 14, 2023 at 5:00 am

    Bobrovsky did NOT steal the playoff series against the Leafs, the bottom 6 did much more than their part to basically entirely get 2 goals per game. What was missing , as usual was the Corpse 4 who got only 9 of 29 points and 1 goal in that 5 game series!

  3. gfinale

    June 14, 2023 at 5:07 am

    You would keep everybody. You would keep Engvall, Kerfoot, Holl and Keefe. If you keep everybody, you cannot get anyone better. Who have you EVER said should go? NOBODY. One of Samsonov or Woll should be kept and that answer is obviously Woll. Next, get a real, proven playoff performer, not Samsonov and Woll or Samsonov and Murray, your hero 5 months ago..

  4. afp1961

    June 14, 2023 at 6:03 am

    Sammy seems to have the mental strength to deal with the Tornoto media and fishbowl. That is a bog part of the goalie game. just ask Freddy. However 5M is too much. Leafs cannot afford this due to their cap structure. Want Sammy back as a duo with Wall but overall the duo cannot cost more than 4.5M in total. Moving Murray is gonna be tough without sweeteners. Maybe Treliving has to give up the assets Toronto acquired from Ottawa in the Murray deal just to dump him. He has 8M in pay coming to him this year. Not many teams can afford that. Buyout may be the only option at 675K this year and 2M next Treliving would have to hoe the cap goes up substantially next season (4-5M) to offset burying that cost as both Matthews and Willie’s new deals will also kick in then.

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