The writing appears to be on the wall for the Leafs and Ilya Samsonov

Mike Armenti
July 21, 2023  (9:37)

With the Leafs and goaltender Ilya Samsonov currently pitted against one another in an arbitration case, which has the Leafs seeking an award of $2.4M, while Samsonov is seeking an award of $4.9M, we have officially landed in a very uncomfortable spot for both the team and the player.

Arbitration cases can get messy, and while it's simply a part of the business, it can be troubling for a player to hear all of the reasons why a team doesn't believe he's worth anywhere near what he's asking, exposing all of his perceived flaws to an arbitrator. For the team, it's tough to have someone in such an important position trying to extract every last dollar that he can when you're already tight against the cap. The process can sour a relationship in a hurry, which is why most teams and players agree to terms before their arbitration hearing.
With Samsonov just 1 year away from qualifying for unrestricted free agency, the maximum term that the Leafs have the option of taking on his award is 1 year. Were he under RFA control for an additional season, the Leafs would have had the option of retaining him for 2 years, but that's not the case here, unfortunately. Even more unfortunately, after this hearing has come and gone, this might be one and done for Samsonov and the Leafs.
If the player gets a hefty arbitration award, closer to his ask, and has a good season, the team may opt to walk away next summer rather than paying a significant raise that Samsonov would be due, as Leafs Nation News pointed out on Twitter this morning. If he struggles next season, the Leafs may not want to risk another contract after this one.
With Joseph Woll taking significant strides last season and appearing NHL ready, it might not be the worst thing in the world to have him playing closer to 30-35 games this season so that the Leafs can try to see what they have in him with a larger workload. Woll acquitted himself very well both in the regular season and when the Leafs turned to him in the playoffs, rather than turning to the veteran, Matt Murray, who was healthy and ready to go when Samsonov went down against Florida. If Woll continues to excel, perhaps the Leafs will be in an even better position next year when Woll has another year of development under his belt and won't require Samsonov's services anyway.
I think everyone wanted the same thing coming into this week, which is the toughest part about this whole arbitration mess. The team and player likely both wanted a 2-3 year term and the Leafs were probably more than happy to give Samsonov a raise on the $1.8M he earned with the team last season. It's just unfortunate that the ask came in at $4.9M, because I truly do believe that there was a mutual interest in continuing the partnership. However, once the arbitration hearing is over and the award is handed out, it's clear that one side won't be satisfied, which doesn't bode well for the next negotiation.
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The writing appears to be on the wall for the Leafs and Ilya Samsonov

Will Ilya Samsonov be one and done in Toronto following his arbitration award?

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