TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs goalie situation remains in flux after attempts to address the position fell short before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline on Monday.
Coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday no decision has been made regarding who will start for the Maple Leafs when they host the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday (7 pm ET; TVAS, SN, MSG+).
Discussions with the Chicago Blackhawks regarding Marc-Andre Fleury fizzled, and he was traded to the Minnesota Wild on Monday. Toronto’s No. 1 goalie, Jack Campbell, has missed five games with a rib injury and resumed skating on his own, but there is no timetable for his return. As a result, Keefe must choose between struggling veteran Petr Mrazek and Erik Kallgrena rookie who has played four NHL games.
Keefe and Mrazek had a discussion Tuesday, a day after Mrazek cleared waivers, and the coach told the goalie the experience should leave him humbled and focused.
“It should be a full reset now,” Keefe said after practice. “It’s a bit of a shock to an established NHL player that goes on waivers and when you clear, it should be even more of a shock that you have not been nearly good enough.
“It’s an opportunity for him to really get to work now, it is real, and we need him to be better.”
Mrazek, who signed a three-year, $11.4 million contract ($3.8 million average annual value) with Toronto on July 28, is 10-6-0 with a 3.48 goals-against average and .884 save percentage in 17 games (15 starts) . Kallgren has started the past three games, his first three NHL starts, and is 2-1-0 with a 2.32 GAA, a .930 save percentage and one shutout in four games.
“It never feels good,” Mrazek said of being placed on waivers. “But now it’s over and we move on. It’s like a reset button and let’s get going.
“Obviously [waivers] is a little different from being traded and stuff like that. You never know what can happen. The hockey career can change in a minute to go to different teams.
“I’m happy I’m here and I can show the rest of the year what I can do.”
General manager Kyle Dubas expressed confidence in Mrazek and Campbell on Monday.
“The thing about Petr that is most impressive is that regardless of what anyone says or the way things are going, he has a strong belief in himself,” Dubas said. “He just has to come and work and find his game, and nobody wants to do that more than Petr.”
Campbell has not played since March 8, when the Maple Leafs said he would be out a minimum of two weeks. Tuesday was the two-week mark, and Campbell has yet to resume practicing with the team.
Campbell is 24-9-4 with a 2.65 GAA, .914 save percentage and four shutouts this season in an NHL career-high 40 games (39 starts). Once healthy, he’ll be looked upon to carry the load for Toronto.
“It has not always been a straight path for Jack,” Dubas said. “He always finds a way to bounce back. He’s a competitor and he thrives when there are doubts and when things get rocky.
“For me, being a goaltender here in Toronto, you have to have that quality. And he has it.”
Despite Dubas declaring his faith in Campbell and Mrazek, the Maple Leafs did attempt to shore up the Maple Leafs goaltending in the past week.
On Sunday, Toronto signed Harri Sateri, who played nine games for the Florida Panthers in 2017-18. The Maple Leafs knew he needed to clear waivers, and he was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, much to the chagrin of Dubas.
Dubas was also frustrated by a report that the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks discussed a trade that would have involved Mrazek, forward prospect Matthew Knies and first-round NHL Draft picks going to Chicago for Fleury and forward Brandon Hagel. According to the report, the Maple Leafs declined because they would have been giving up too much of their future.
“I’m disappointed that conversation is public,” Dubas said, seemingly irked at the Blackhawks. “I’ve never had that before where specifics like that have been made public. And I think, frankly, it’s a conversation to ask (Chicago general manager) Kyle Davidson [about].”
Upon being informed of Dubas’ comments, Davidson replied Monday, “That’s something I will address in private with Kyle.”
The Maple Leafs (39-18-5), who are tied with the Boston Bruins for third in the Atlantic Division, don’t have Fleury or Sateri. With 20 games remaining in the regular season, Toronto’s fate remains with Campbell, Mrazek and Kallgren.