UPDATE: This article has a couple of big fails in it. Two major points on the speculation about arbitration are:
A player in the final year of arbitration can only get a one-year award. And the first round of club-elected arbitration has a salary limit that excludes Samsonov (there is another window later that does not.)
June 30 is the deadline this year for Qualifying Offers to RFAs, hard on the draft, so there isn't a lot of time for teams to get things organized before free agency opens the very next day.
First, let's review what a Qualifying Offer actually is. The QO is a genuine one-year SPC. It is limited in terms of its amount and term by the CBA, and is required to maintain the team rights over the RFA. If a player is not issued a QO by June 30 at 5 pm, they are a UFA the next day at noon.
The Qualifying Offer amount is based on prior salary, and includes a raise for low-paid players, but at a certain point up the payment ladder is just the most recent season's salary. One exception is for RFAs who had an AAV over the course of the contract much lower than the final year's salary, the QO is, at most, 120% of the AAV (applies to contracts signed after July 10, 2020).
Your CapFriendly calculator is ready to tell you the amount and type of the QO for any player.
The Leafs have seven expiring RFAs, four with arbitration rights.
The first team elected arbitration is available until June 15 or 48 hrs after the SCF if Vegas don't win tonight. This arbitration can be elected without issuing a player a QO.
The player-elected arbitration deadline date is July 5 for 24 hrs, followed by 24 hrs where teams can elect arbitration.
RFAs with Arbitration Rights
- Ilya Samsonov - QO of $1.8 million
- Victor Mete - QO of $787,500 and a two-way deal
- Pontus Holmberg - QO of $787,500 and a two-way deal
- Mac Hollowell - QO of $787,500 and a two-way deal
RFAs without Arbitration Rights
- Nick Abruzzese - QO of $803,250 and a two-way deal
- Semyon Der-Arguchintsev - QO of $787,500 and a two-way deal
- Filip Král - QO of $787,500 and a two-way deal
Der-Arguchintsev has been reported to be signing with a KHL team for next year. The Leafs can maintain North American rights by issuing a QO. None of the rest of these contracts are difficult to complete – although there can be a question of even bothering in a couple of cases. None except Samsonov.
In many ways, arbitration is the best course for the Leafs in terms of getting a low term deal at a price they can afford. Samsonov came to the Leafs after the Washington Capitals washed their hands of him by not issuing a QO that would have been $2 million. He signed with Toronto for one year at $1.8 million to prove them wrong. He remains an RFA because he is just 26 this year. A one year deal walks him to UFA status.
What is he going to want? Term, term, term, and an AAV north of $5 million. His ask is going to begin with the Darcy Kuemper deal Washington signed (5 by $5.25 million) and climb higher to account for inflation. He might also look at the Jacob Markstrom deal (6 by $6 million) signed by Brad Treliving in 2020 as a guide. That's the ask, remember, which isn't supposed to be what the player expects to get.
This is a case where if Kyle Dubas was GM, I'd know what to predict. He'd never do a term deal on a goalie. Treliving has and he might again.
If the Leafs get Samsonov to arbitration by team-election,
he decides if the term is one or two years when there is an award (whoever doesn't elect arbitration chooses the length) his term would be one-year. Or he can accept his QO and hit the open market next summer. That has to be handled carefully to not piss the player off, but unless he's interested in two years at $4 million, I wouldn't sign a contract with him. He's been good. He's not been great, and there's zero reason to predict an exact repeat of this season from him. He is, like almost all goalies, a giant question mark in expensive pads and a jauntily painted helmet.
What about letting Samsonov walk?
Doing the same thing Washington did and just not issuing a QO is a legitimate option. As is trading his rights if a deal can't be done that falls within the goalie budget. But to be clear, the Toronto Maple Leafs are not going to assume Joe Woll is an NHL goalie of quality based on his small body of work. They are not pencilling him in as a starter. They are going to wait and see what happens with him, but there will be someone ahead of Woll on the depth chart beyond Matt Murray. That might be Samsonov, or it might be someone entirely new. I usually bet on inertia winning out, but not in this case. I think someone entirely new is the most likely outcome in net for the Leafs.
At the end of the
day well, the next few weeks, really, Treliving has to decide if he buys in on Samsonov as the starter or not. I changed my mind on him about five times over the course of the season. But like with Woll, no one is making that decision on the most recent game they remember him in.
There's a lot of goalies on the market. There is a lot of grass that looks greener. This one is hard to predict.