Juuse Saros in position to make the save
Photo credit: NHL

New development has a Vezina Trophy finalist available on the trade market

Published January 19, 2024 at 11:48

A quality goaltender can make or break a team's season and, more important, their postseason. A great goalie getting hot at the right time seems to often be the story that leads to a team celebrating a Stanley Cup victory. We saw it with Andrei Vasilevskiy twice in recent years. We saw it from Corey Crawford a number of times in Chicago. So, when a solid goalie becomes available, it can lead to the ears perking up for many teams.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled with inconsistent goaltending for a number of years, but their situation this season points to the need for a durable, consistent, quality #1 goaltender. Since those don't grow on trees, the solution in Toronto was to run veteran netminder Martin Jones until the wheels fall off. Well, now there appears to be a true #1 goaltender available to the highest bidder and the Leafs should act fast, even if it means a bit of an overpayment.

TSN's Pierre LeBrun dropped an article with The Athletic on Thursday, suggesting that while the Nashville Predators aren't actively shopping Juuse Saros, they're not hanging up the phone when teams call either.

"My understanding is that [Barry] Trotz won't hang up the phone if a team makes a serious, serious offer for the 28-year-old Saros. That doesn't mean the call would lead to a trade, but the Preds feel they have to at least listen and consider the possibility." - LeBrun on Saros' potential availability in Nashville

Saros' game has seen a bit of a dip this season, to the tune of an 18-16-1 record, a 2.96 GAA and a .903 SV% in 35 appearances for the Predators. Prior to this season, Saros has not finished a season below a .914 SV% since his NHL debut back in 2015-16, which was his only start of the season.

Prior to this year, Saros had posted a .919 SV% in 2022-23, a .918 SV% in 2021-22 and a .927 SV% in 2020-21. Saros was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2021-22.

For the Leafs, there is a lot of uncertainty beyond this season in the crease. Yes, they have Joseph Woll and Dennis Hildeby in the fold, but both Martin Jones and Ilya Samsonov are on expiring deals and may or may not factor into the team's plans beyond this season. The team's other goaltender, Matt Murray, is also on an expiring deal and is coming off of major hip surgery, which has ruled him out for the entire 2023-24 season, so there would be a lot of risk there in bringing him back this summer.

Saros, in his 9 NHL seasons, has amassed a combined 165-111-28 record, a collective 2.62 GAA and .918 SV% over the course of his 321-game NHL career. Joseph Woll, while very promising, has just 26 games of NHL experience. Dennis Hildeby has not yet played an NHL game and is playing his first season in North America with the Toronto Marlies. This simply cannot be the Leafs' tandem in 2024-25. They need a quality, experienced goaltender with some term remaining. Saros is certainly that.

The problem is that the Leafs don't really have a lot of assets to move right now. Yes, they do have the pieces to get a deal done, but it would likely require at least one of the team's 1st round picks. Since they've already dealt their 2025 1st rounder, they'd either need to move their 2024 or 2026 1st round pick. Then, the Preds would likely want one of their top prospects in Fraser Minten or Easton Cowan and perhaps a young roster player like Nicholas Robertson. Despite the fact that the Preds already have top goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov in the fold, they'd probably want one of Joseph Woll or Dennis Hildeby in the deal, just to ensure that they'd be adding at a position that they're also subtracting from. Could the Leafs perhaps talk the Preds into taking a flier on Ilya Samsonov? Maybe, but he'd have to be amenable to signing an extension and he'd also have to go on a bit of a run here to show the Preds that he can still play the way he did last season. They might also need to include an additional piece or two if there's any salary retention involved in the deal, as Saros carries a $5M cap hit this season and next.

LeBrun cautioned that it's Preds GM Barry Trotz's preference to keep Saros and extend him this summer, but the fact that he's willing to listen to offers suggests that Trotz wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth if the right deal came along.

If you were Leafs GM Brad Treliving, would you trade Nicholas Robertson, Fraser Minten, Dennis Hildeby, a 2026 1st round pick and another pick/prospect for 1 and a half seasons of Juuse Saros? Let us know in the poll below.

January 19   |   1231 answers
New development has a Vezina Trophy finalist available on the trade market

If you were Leafs GM Brad Treliving, would you trade Nick Robertson, Fraser Minten, Dennis Hildeby, a 2026 1st round pick and another pick/prospect for Juuse Saros?

In a heartbeat15612.7 %
Not a chance77863.2 %
I'd strongly consider it16813.6 %
I think there are better options than Saros12910.5 %
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