Acquiring a goalie at trade deadline doesn't make sense for Maple Leafs

Justin Cuthbert
·4 min read

It's looking increasingly likely that the Frederik Andersen era in Toronto is coming to an end.

But you knew that.

However, for the large segment of the Toronto Maple Leafs fanbase pining for drastic measures before the NHL's April 12 trade deadline, its desperation for the opportunity the season presents not to be wasted now fully showing, the inevitable well wishes likely won't come soon enough.

The reasons for that (that being the unlikely scenario that the struggling Andersen is moved, sat, or shelved before transaction season comes to a close) are tenfold — or at least run several factors deep.

None of which are more powerful than the fact the Maple Leafs are performing paperwork gymnastics on the daily in order to stay cap compliant. It's already cost them Jimmy Vesey, and now Travis Boyd, too.

But the best reason to resist the knee-jerk decision to bring in a supposed upgrade on Andersen while the opportunity remains is the fact that the netminder who can provide the plus efforts required for success in the postseason could very possibly be with the organization as it stands.

Whether that's Andersen or with his backup, Jack Campbell.

The Frederik Andersen era in Toronto is coming to an end. It's just a matter of when. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Frederik Andersen era in Toronto is coming to an end. It's just a matter of when. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

If the Maple Leafs have anything in Campbell, it's a goalie who teammates desperately want to perform for. This fact has been undeniable through his four starts this season, and dating back to last season as well.

What we've also seen, more importantly, is that effort being reciprocated. Campbell has been nothing short of brilliant in his limited appearances, breaking into the top tier among netminders in total goals saved above expected in a fraction of the amount in total minutes.

He's battled for his teammates for better and for worse. It's the reason he has a sparkling .965 save percentage and four wins, but also the reason he's been mostly unavailable. It was an injury suffered, and momentarily ignored, in a January start versus Calgary that has prevented Campbell from seeing regular duty.

Even in just four starts this season, though, it seems safe to say the Leafs have something undeniably special in Campbell. And with Andersen fighting it right now, allowing an average of four goals per game over his last five starts, now is the time to find out if Campbell can be more than just an elite backup.

What turning to Campbell in the short term won't do now, however, is rule out the possibility of Andersen being that postseason performer the Leafs need to survive the North Division and for their ambition to run wild in a final four.

Battling in his own right, it's clear that Andersen has been dealing with some nagging injury issues as well. And while that's valiant in its own way, considering this is a contract season for the 31-year-old and there is a degree of self sacrifice when competing in conditions that would be considered less than ideal, Andersen's performances have been doing more harm than good for both himself and the Leafs, who are cramping with their grip on the division's top seed.

Losing the crease could mean great things for Andersen, the overworked netminder who has never had proper support around him in his five seasons in Toronto — even up to this point with Campbell in the fold.

Should Campbell battle specifically for him, Andersen could be set on the right path, having the chance to get right both physically and mentally, while putting in important work with goaltending coach Steve Briere.

Perhaps that's wishful thinking for a netminder who has seen his numbers decline in each of the past three seasons, and who has been second best in virtually every postseason series he's been in.

But Andersen deserves that one last reset, given that it's possible. If it's unsuccessful, you have Campbell to fall back on. And if it works, well, it probably doesn't change anything other than his legacy.

Because the situation has always dictated that at some point the Leafs will have to sacrifice something.

And nearing the end of the road, it's always made the most sense that it's Andersen.

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