Is it possible to be a goaltender that comes into a new season with massive question marks regarding his future, play only 16 games, but in that short amount of time prove that he’s the future starter? It sounds like an odd set of circumstances, but such is potentially the case for Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen.
The Maple Leafs got some good news on the injury front Wednesday.https://t.co/rL3hwRFAQg— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 24, 2021
According to Damien Cox, Andersen may have played his way into a contract extension with the Maple Leafs next season. Part of it has to do with how the netminder has fared in his 16 games this season. More of it has to do with how many questions also surround the Leafs other options.
In 16 games this season, Andersen has posted a 2.69 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. Neither of those numbers are particularly great, but neither of those numbers are particularly awful. As such, the Leafs know that if Andersen is backstopping a strong team, the organization has a capable starter on their roster.
At the same time, Michael Hutchinson is not a starter and Jack Campbell has only played in two games this season. His numbers are better than Andersen’s, but in a smaller sample size. Campbell will slot back into the lineup for the Leafs on Saturday but GM Kyle Dubas has no idea if the designated backup this season can be a starter or not.
Cox notes there is more that makes this decision for the Leafs a tricky one. Not only is there not much else available in free agency, but this has been a strange season to try and measure what Andersen will or won’t be.
Complicating any assessment is the fact all NHL teams are playing a sharply limited number of opponents in a tightly compacted schedule. Andersen might be the most consistent goalie in the North Division except for the Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck. But it’s not clear he’s in the top third of all NHL goalies. And this is one weird season to handicap.
Andersen might not be far off from a return, but if there are holes in his game and he doesn’t stand out over the next half of the season, Dubas could always abandon all of his goalies and move in another direction. There’e a problem with that strategy too.
Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington are potentially available, but it is believed Binnington will sign with St. Louis and the other two are winding down their NHL careers in their mid thirties.
We wrote a piece earlier this year saying Andersen would have about 30 games to prove he’s the guy the Leafs should go with. With with uncertainty surrounding Andersen’s injury, perhaps there are doubts he might even see that many games this year.
If he doesn’t, this is a tough decision for the Leafs. What if no one really steps forward in a short season? Is what Andersen has done in fewer games than expected enough to really make such a big decision?