Toronto elected to undergo an arbitration hearing Friday, where mediator Stephen Raymond was granted 48 hours to rule on Samsonov’s next contract. Samsonov is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, therefore the maximum term allowable through the arbitration process was one year.
Both parties were leagues away in reaching a mutual agreement prior to arbitration, as the Maple Leafs filed for a $2.4-million salary claim, while Samsonov filed for a $4.9-million claim, as first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Samsonov enters the 2023-24 season as the Maple Leafs’ nominal starter, with Joseph Woll as his backup. Samsonov signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract with the Maple Leafs for the 2022-23 season — essentially a prove-it deal — after the former first-round pick was cast off by the Washington Capitals. The 26-year-old responded with the best campaign of his career, posting a 27-10-5 record with a .919 save percentage, while saving 18 goals above expected, the 10th-best mark in the NHL.
Samsonov and Matt Murray were brought in by former Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas last season in a calculated bet on the team’s goaltending. Murray was projected as the starter and began the season strong before injuries took a toll on his form. By year’s end, he was No. 3 on the depth chart.
Woll is earmarked as the Maple Leafs’ backup for the 2023-24 season. Samsonov suffered a neck injury during Game 3 of the Maple Leafs’ second-round series against the Florida Panthers and Woll closed out the season admirably.
Toronto is widely reported to be seeking a trade for Murray. This outcome seems highly improbable, however, and it’s expected the Maple Leafs will offer Murray a buyout, where the team will incur a $687,500 cap hit for next season, and a $2 million hit for 2024-25.
On the surface, the Maple Leafs can stomach this tax but the 2024-25 budget must account for Auston Matthews and William Nylander’s imminent extensions, as both franchise cornerstones have yet to sign new deals with one year left on their existing contracts.