Maple Leafs have goalie concerns, but trade deadline options are shaky

mrazek reset
Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline serves as one of those prime times for teams (and especially fans) to dream big. Rebuilders want those franchise-turning picks and prospects. Contenders yearn for the last pieces of that Stanley Cup puzzle.

Yet, the Maple Leafs’ trade deadline questions are even more puzzling than usual.

The Maple Leafs carry the weight of past failures — in the playoffs, in bad trade deadline investments such as Nick Foligno — with overwhelming pressure to break through. They also have a glaring flaw in net.

In a dream world, the Maple Leafs could make an obvious trade deadline upgrade over goalies Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek. In reality, those options are limited, and the best course might be hoping that Campbell and/or Mrazek can figure it out.

Let’s explore the Maple Leafs’ possible trade deadline paths regarding goaltending. As a reminder, the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is set for March 21.

Maple Leafs look elite, but there’s that Atlantic elephant in the room

Call it a potential excuse or not, but there’s a scary factor hanging over all of this. The Maple Leafs could do everything right, and still fall to a great team without winning a playoff series.

And let’s be clear, the Maple Leafs have been one of the best teams in the NHL this season.

They’re top 10 in even-strength volume stats like scoring chances, and top five in areas like expected goals and high-danger chances. Their special teams shine, as well.

Evolving Hockey’s RAPM team stats provide a snapshot of a well-rounded team:

Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs are likely to draw another Atlantic power like the Panthers or Lightning. Both of those teams boast credible Stanley cup aspirations, joining the Maple Leafs in major stat categories.

Heck, even the Boston Bruins linger as a real threat with their elite top line and suffocating defense.

Losing valiantly to another great team feels cruel, and all-too-Maple-Leafs. But few will show much mercy if another first-round exit happens.

That lingering fear might push the Maple Leafs to gamble on a goalie at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. So let’s consider those quite limited options.

Fleury and other potential Maple Leafs trade deadline goalie possibilities

No position can swing a hockey team’s fate quite like a goalie. Unfortunately, that position is also devilishly difficult to predict.

Personally, I wouldn’t bet money on any trade deadline goalie option being a smart gamble for the Maple Leafs. Especially in the likely event that a desperate team like the Oilers could drive prices up.

  • Marc-Andre Fleury is the shiniest goalie object. He likely boasts the highest ceiling, with experience and flashy saves to boot.

That said, he’s likely to command a heavy price. MAF is also a goalie who gives up bonehead goals almost as often as he makes mind-blowing saves. In a market like Toronto, Fleury could face endless grief for one of his trademark blunders.

That Vezina win isn’t that far in the past, yet his performance has also bounced between extremes. His name recognition and cap hit may only make the asking price skyrocket.

And, search your mind (not Google) for the last time a goalie made a big difference for a team following a trade deadline deal. There’s a real risk this would work out as well as Ryan Miller did for the Blues.

Then again, potential Fleury blunders under the Toronto microscope could fill the soap opera void left behind by Euphoria’s season finale. This could be Shakespearean stuff. So there’s that.

Note to GMs: probably not ideal when the biggest winners are gawkers and unsightly bloggers.

[2021-22 NHL Trade Tracker]

Other options include:

  • Alexandar Georgiev: While Igor Shesterkin keeps shining despite a shabby Rangers structure, Georgiev has … not. You can talk yourself into Georgiev, but would you really trust him more than Campbell and Mrazek?
  • Braden Holtby: Has name recognition, and perhaps his current .912 save percent assures despite a considerable decline the past few seasons. That resume won’t stop extra pucks, though. Unless it’s in a really thick binder, maybe?
  • Semyon Varlamov: Tough sell with his $5M cap hit running through 2022-23.
  • Joonas Korpisalo: Interesting only if you consider a few nice playoff stretches, but his career numbers scream “medicore backup.”
  • James Reimer: One of the subtler options who’d be a decent patch-up. Considering past history, probably not for the Maple Leafs, however.
  • Martin Jones: Oof.
  • Anton Forsberg: Another goalie you could talk yourself into adding … until you once again search your soul and wonder if you’d trust him more than current options.
  • Jaroslav Halak: Interesting, but maybe washed. Throw Anton Khudobin in this same category while we’re at it.

Well, that doesn’t seem ideal.

Of course, these questions arise for a reason. Campbell and Mrazek may just not be good enough to guide the Maple Leafs through that elusive playoff push.

Can Campbell and/or Mrazek rebound for the Maple Leafs?

Earlier this season, Jack Campbell was making a credible Vezina Trophy argument. Now, he’s in a bit of a crisis; even Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe hopes Campbell can clear a “mental block.”

In closing out 2021, Campbell went 15-5-2 with a sparkling .937 save percentage. He was also great for much of last season, authoring an inspiring story for a goalie once deemed a first-round bust.

Since 2022 began, Campbell’s .887 save percentage in 15 games would be disappointing even for a backup.

It’s fair to wonder if this is a “mental block,” fatigue, or a sign that Jack Campbell was playing a bit over his head.

Study Campbell’s career, and you’ll note that Campbell was rarely a workhorse, even at levels below the NHL.

To the Maple Leafs’ credit, they weren’t planning on pinning so much on Jack Campbell. Yet, with Petr Mrazek injured early this season, Campbell ran with the top job.

Until he started stumbling and falling lately.

Between health concerns and inconsistent play, Petr Mrazek’s been a question mark for several years. Even a strong .923 save percentage from last season is tempered by playing a mere 12 games. His .895 save percentage this season won’t silence doubters.

But maybe the Maple Leafs can make it work with average goaltending? This Hockey Viz chart points to them more or less breaking even so far this season.

At least both Campbell and Mrazek have enjoyed some success, with positive signs not that long ago. Stranger things have happened than that tandem working out.

Overall, it’s easy to see why the Maple Leafs are worried about their goaltending, but difficult to feel strongly about trade deadline solutions. They might be better off trying to get better on defense, or deeper on offense, instead.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For: