When Joseph Woll returns, the Leafs could take advantage of a rule and gain a real benefit in goal
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Leafs among a handful of teams who can bend an NHL rule to their benefit

Published January 3, 2024 at 0:24
BY MIKE ARMENTI

There are a number of teams around the NHL right now who are operating with 3 goaltenders this season, which is somewhat of an uncommon occurrence. In seasons past, many teams were abiding by the usual unwritten rule of only carrying two goalies on their NHL roster, but for one reason or another, it seems as though teams are becoming more accustomed to carrying an extra netminder. As it turns out, there's actually a pretty good reason for it.

While I'm sure many would assume that the reason for teams opting to carry 3 goalies this year relates to either the salary cap or the fear of losing a goalie on waivers, the main reason why the Columbus Blue Jackets, among others, are carrying 3 goalies is actually much simpler.

The Athletic's Aaron Portzline revealed something very interesting on January 1st, which came to light during the Blue Jackets/Leafs game just before the New Year. The Jackets are carrying 3 goalies on their roster because it allows them to use their 3rd goalie as an Emergency Backup Goalie (EBUG).

During the game in Columbus against the Leafs, the Blue Jackets had started Elvis Merzlikins, who was battling an illness. After the first period, it was Spencer Martin who came out, with Merzlikins nowhere to be found. At that point, the team's 3rd string goalie, Daniil Tarasov, had been notified that his services were required as the team's EBUG and so the young netminder dressed and remained on standby in the Columbus dressing room.


The Leafs could very well find themselves in a similar position when Joseph Woll and Ilya Samsonov return to action. With how well Martin Jones has played this season, it's highly unlikely that he'll clear waivers again, so it wouldn't be a shock to see the Leafs send down someone else on the roster and work out a rotation with Jones, Woll and Samsonov down the stretch to avoid losing Jones on waivers. Of course, this all hinges on Samsonov rediscovering the magic that he had shown last season during his current assignment with the Toronto Marlies and the Leafs' development staff.

Rolling 3 goalies can certainly have its benefits. First, it ensures that nobody is overworked and, thus, makes everyone a little less susceptible to injury. Second, it keeps all 3 guys involved and sharp in the event that an injury or illness does arise, requiring someone to step up and take on some additional work. Third, it creates more competition, which only helps to keep all 3 netminders motivated. Lastly, being able to use your 3rd goalie as an EBUG gives the team a distinct advantage if it every comes to a point where an EBUG is required. Rather than using a University level goaltender or, in David Ayres case a few seasons back, a practice goalie/Zamboni driver, the Leafs would have access to an actual NHL caliber goaltender in Jones, Woll or Samsonov, depending on how the rotation works out.

It may be a little tougher for a team like the Leafs, who are almost always tight against the cap, to carry a 3rd goaltender, but given the benefit that it would provide, along with the fact that they wouldn't have to risk losing a goalie on waivers, I could certainly see the Leafs rolling a trio as opposed to a tandem for the duration of the season.

POLL
January 3   |   797 answers
Leafs among a handful of teams who can bend an NHL rule to their benefit

Will the Leafs carry 3 goalies the rest of the way?

Yes49762.4 %
No30037.6 %
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