The Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans have become accustomed to Frederik Andersen in the net, night in and night out. When there were fans in the arena, the Freddie chant was often on repeat. He was a fan favourite for much of his five years in Toronto. That said, it is going to be easy for the franchise to let him go. That may sound harsh given the history with the team, but last season was his career-worst, both statistically and because he lost his starting job. Those facts may lead you to believe the pending free agent’s asking price has come down. Wrong. It’s thought that the goalie wants a lot of cash, even a raise over last season.
A week after it was reported that Andersen and the Maple Leafs talked, we are getting more insight into what numbers they may be talking about. NHL Insider Darren Dreger went back to Andersen’s media availability several weeks ago, “he basically said he knows what he’s worth.” Dreger told TSN 1050, “To me, that was a pretty strong indication that he believes that he’s worth at least $5 million, which is what he is earned to date and maybe a bump in salary.”
During Andersen’s last media availability, the day after the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs, he was asked what he is looking for in free agency. Andersen replied, “to start, I want to talk to Kyle (Dubas) here and see where he is at. That is my starting point. I don’t want to look past that conversation. We got to see what makes sense for both parties.”
Reasons to Let Him Walk
This seems painfully obvious. There is absolutely no way signing Andersen to a $5 million per year contract, or even more, makes any sense. Toronto has around $10 million in cap space and many holes on the roster to fill. Spending almost half on the guy who was the backup goalie, who has been plagued with injuries and whose numbers are on a steady decline is ludicrous.
Numbers Don’t Lie
|Seasons||Goals Against Average||Save Percentage (Rank)|
|2016-17||2.67 (34)||.918 (20)|
|2017-18||2.81 (33)||.918 (20)|
|2018-19||2.77 (28)||.917 (15)|
|2019-20||2.85 (34)||.909 (31)|
|2020-21||2.96 (43)||.895 (74)|
Just a quick scan of the most basic goalie statistics shows a steady decline in his numbers and in his rankings. While Andersen’s rankings are not elite by any stretch of the imagination, he did have one higher ranking than the numbers above show—he was the 13th highest-paid goaltender last season.
Jack Campbell Earned the Net
The Toronto net is now Jack Campbell’s to lose. The career backup goalie stepped up during the last season and earned the starting role. Let’s not forget Campbell set a Maple Leafs record for consecutive wins by a goaltender, with 10 and set a league record with 11 straight wins to start the season. Campbell is entering the final year of his deal which pays a bargain price of $1.65 million. If he plays like he did last season, Toronto will likely want to extend his contract and he would be in for a big bump in pay. That pay increase would be significantly more if Toronto showed they were willing to pay $5 million for his backup.
Reasons to Bring Him Back
There are several reasons but they all seem to fall short of a reason to spend $5 million to retain his services. That said, let’s take a look a few possible explanations to bring Andersen back.
Not a lot of Options
Dreger explained, “I don’t think Toronto loves the idea, aside from the cap space that’s going to be saved, in going into a new year with Jack Campbell and a big question mark in goal.” Toronto does have Micheal Hutchinson, but the organization showed they were not confident in him when they traded for David Rittich at the deadline. Rittich is also a free agent. Other than that, the Maple Leafs have a number of netminders developing in the minors, but no one appears ready to make a jump to the NHL.
Loyality to Players
As hard as it would be to justify the backup making three times the amount as your starter, there is a comfort level between Campbell and Andersen. Andersen also has strong ties with the stars of the team, including the face of the franchise, Auston Matthews. Matthews and Andersen were recently spotted together at a UFC event with Justin Bieber.
He May Return to Form
Andersen is determined to come back stronger and better than before. “I still have my abilities. I have more and more experience. I’ve been through a lot here,” said Andersen. “I’ll talk to my trainer about what we can do better. Obviously, I’m very motivated given how this year went.”
Those words can make a general manager sweat. A healthy Andersen who could rekindle the play from three seasons ago would be worth an investment. These are the types of scenarios that must keep general managers up at night. What if Dubas passes on him and he goes on to play his best hockey with another team? The fanbase would be relentless. This is a franchise that traded Tuuka Rask for Andrew Raycroft.
He Owes the Franchise
Dreger just doesn’t see how Toronto can make it work, “if he wants to stay with the group and he’s willing to take the same or less, well maybe you can engage – maybe you can. I find it difficult that Toronto could even invest $5 million. I think they will figure out where they can save money, and Freddie might be one of the areas to save money. But you still have to have those talks. So we’ll see where it goes, but I suspect that Freddie still hits the open market.”
I’ve written articles defending him in the past, and while I appreciate what he has done for the organization, it’s not worth re-signing him. I believe he owes Toronto. If he truly loves the city and the team as he professes, then he should be willing to take far less. If he is confident he will be back better than ever, then sign a one-year deal and prove it. If he did that, Toronto would have two goalies fighting for not only the starting position but a future contract with a pay raise.
Free agency begins on July 28. This means, technically, Andersen is still under contract with Toronto. However, the background image on the Maple Leafs’ website has already been changed. For two years, it had a photo of Andersen in full gear walking in downtown Toronto to an outdoor practice. Now it’s just a generic skyline picture. Perhaps it’s true; a picture is worth a thousand words.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.