One of the most important factors in the Leafs/Samsonov arbitration process; Treliving didn't blink first

Dean Chaudhry
July 21, 2023  (4:57 PM)

At one point in time - until pretty recently - salary arbitration was seen as taboo around the NHL. It's commonplace in a sport like baseball and with the MLB but the NHL almost blackballed you if ever went that route. The very few cases that were filed never actually made it into the meeting room and a deal was struck beforehand, but now it seems that the veil has finally come off as the NHL is modernizing.

While it's never a clean situation, there are some instances where arbitration is absolutely necessary, like when the Philadelphia Flyers filed for a team-elected arbitration case on defenseman, Travis Sanheim just a few years ago.
For Ilya Samsonov it was pretty clear that arbitration was necessary because the two sides were extremely far apart. The Toronto Maple Leafs placed a $2.4 million price tag on a goaltender who placed a $4.9 million tag on himself, and that was never going to get settled without a middle man.
Filing for arbitration was essential because it opened up a second buyout window for the Maple Leafs, who should more than likely be using it on Matt Murray unless they have a change of heart. However, if that was the only reason for them to go to arbitration, then a deal would've been struck well before a meeting was to take place.
General manager Brad Treliving might be flexing his muscles as the new boss in town, stating to Samsonov that "we're going to pay you what we think you're worth". He has been rather staunch with William Nylander this summer as well, almost trying to right the wrongs from the previous regime where it seemed like Kyle Dubas caved in to demands to avoid a brouhaha more often than not.
Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews were given rather rich contracts straight out of their ELC's and some could argue that maybe they received a couple million more than they should have. The Matthews contract will always be a little perplexing just based on the fact that he was given such a large sum of money for just a 5-year contract - a contract that would lead directly into his first eligible season as a UFA next summer.
Treliving isn't new to such ordeals as he had to sign Matthew Tkachuk back in 2019. It dragged all the way into the final week of September but both sides ironed out a 3-year deal worth $21 million with each party getting what they wanted out of it. The Flames signed their man to a relatively friendly deal, while Tkachuk got the short term deal that he was looking for all along.
It was, of course, very apparent that there were cracks in the relationship and that Tkachuk might want out of Calgary - which ended up happening in the summer prior to his contract year.
The Leafs have been playing musical chairs with their goaltending situation for years now but had seemingly found a happy medium last season. With the emergence of Joseph Woll, there is also a case to be made that the Leafs might not need Samsonov as much as Samsonov might need the Leafs.
Sure, the goaltender will get whatever money-deal he's looking for on the open market but there aren't that many teams that are searching for a goaltender at the moment, especially contenders.
This relationship seems likely to end by the summer of 2024 but the Leafs will have a much better understanding of where they stand with not just Woll, but their big money guys in Auston Matthews and William Nylander as well as the cap-strapped Leafs have to prioritize their window as best as they can.
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