Reporter explains why the Leafs opted to go through arbitration with Samsonov instead of signing him to a multi-year deal

Ryan Smitheram
September 6, 2023  (10:46)

According to reports, the Leafs had initially been hoping they would be able to sign Ilya Samsonov to a multi-year contract before they went to arbitration. Unfortunately, the Leafs and Samsonov were too far apart to reach an agreement beforehand, which ultimately led to the team and the player going through arbitration with an arbitrator awarding Samsonov a 1-year deal worth $3.55M.

At the time, some thought the number was fine, while others thought it was too high for a goalie with one season as a starter under his belt. On the first episode of The Leaf Report for the upcoming season, The Athletic's Jonas Siegel and James Mirtle touched on the Leafs' goaltending situation and revealed why the Leafs decided arbitration was the right path with Samsonov.
"I think this was the best solution all alongWhere they can kinda see what he is," said Siegel. "They still don't know. Obviously he had a good season last year, but he wore down down the stretch when he took on a bigger load. He got hurt in the playoffs. We'll see. I think this makes a lot of sense. Obviously next summer they'll have an interesting decision depending how things goIf he performs they'll have to decide if they want to pay him because he'll be a UFA or let him go. There's also the possibility he can't handle this workload as a full-time number one."
Samsonov started 42 games for the Leafs last season, and 44 the season prior in Washington before they chose to let him go to free agency. His numbers were significantly better with the Leafs, but the Leafs are also a much better defensive team than Washington. Samsonov did deal with a handful of nagging injuries last season, which caused him to struggle at times, as Siegel noted and this deal will allow the Leafs to not only see if he can handle playing 50+ games, but also see if Joseph Woll is their long-term solution in net, at a much cheaper price. Mirtle also weighed in on the arbitration award and explained that the 1-year deal helps the Leafs with their cap situation, given that a longer term deal would have bought up a few of Samsonov's UFA years.
"I talked to a number of people around the league about this. What would a 2/3/4 year deal look like for Samsonov. And the rule of thumb they said, based on what he did and being a number one and winning as many games as he did, his UFA years are probably around $5M," commented Mirtle. So if you wanna do the math around thatIf you wanna sign him to a 2-year deal, that second year is gunna be around $5M. So that's $8.25M for two years, so that's $4.25M per year. So would you rather have him on a 1-year deal at $3.5M or 2-year deal at $4.25M and eat up another 725K of your cap space that you don't haveThat's why I think they decided to do a 1-year deal. From Samsonov's perspective as a UFA, those years are gunna be more than the RFA years, but from the Leafs' perspective they didn't wanna pay the UFA price for a guy that's only really had one good season for them."
As with all players in a contract year, the deal could work out well for either the player or team depending how Samsonov plays and if he is able to stay healthy and manage a larger workload. If he does, he will be up for a large pay raise, but if he struggles and battles injuries, he could regret not signing a long-term deal when he had the opportunity to. Now, there is also the option to sign an extension when the calendar flips to January as he, like Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi, will all be eligible to do.
Reporter explains why the Leafs opted to go through arbitration with Samsonov instead of signing him to a multi-year deal

Do you think the Leafs made the right call by allowing Samsonov to go through arbitration and landing only a 1-year deal?

Yes5466.7 %
No911.1 %
It's too early to know1822.2 %
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