July 21, 2024

As the Stanley Cup final drags on for what seems longer than the time Pierre-Luc Dubois stays with a team and with the 2024 NHL Entry Draft fast approaching, action is picking up on the trade market. Yesterday, three trades were announced, including two major ones. The Los Angeles Kings had buyers’ remorse after rolling out the red carpet for Dubois and traded him just one year into the eight-year deal they signed him to, dealing him to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Darcy Kuemper. The goaltender had signed with Los Angeles back in 2017 before being traded to the (now inactive) Arizona Coyotes in the run-up to the 2018 trade deadline. The other major deal must have hurt the Toronto Maple Leafs as the Calgary Flames sent goaltender Jacob Markstrom to the New Jersey Devils.

Insider Darren Drager confirmed on his X (formerly Twitter) account that Toronto was in on Markstrom; with the landing him, the Maple Leafs will need to look elsewhere to get some solid goaltending. This has been an organizational need for years now and getting an experienced goaltender would be a wise move by Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving since Joseph Woll has been in and out with injuries. With Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov becoming unrestricted free agents on July 1 who haven’t proved they can excel in Toronto, the Maple Leafs will need to get a solid goaltender. Now that Markstrom is off the trade board, the GM should set his sights on Boston Bruins’ netminder Linus Ullmark.

Why Ullmark Could Be Available

There’s no denying Boston has an excellent goaltender tandem, perhaps even the best in the league, so why should they break it up? The answer is simple enough: they will not be able to sign both long-term. Come July 1, number-one goalie Jeremy Swayman will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Last offseason, Swayman went to arbitration and was awarded $3.475 million for one year. That decision was based on the fact that he had played 37 games to Ullmark’s 44 and his numbers were inferior to Ullmark’s (who won the Vezina Trophy that year). Still, his numbers were stellar with a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.27 and a save percentage (SV%) of .920. In the end, the arbitrator gave a fair ruling at $3.475 million.

Linus Ullmark Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, Swayman overtook Ullmark this season. In the regular season, he featured in 44 games while Ullmark was on the ice for 40 games. Statistics-wise, the former was a bit better than the latter with a 2.53 GAA and a .916 SV% compared to 2.57 GAA and. 915 SV%. While it is a tiny difference, in the playoffs, the number-one role was confirmed as Swayman’s as he played all the post-season matches.

Taking all this into account, even if the case goes to arbitration, Swayman will cash in and it’s likely they won’t want to use too much cap space on goaltending. With Ullmark being older, it’s obvious which of the two goaltenders Boston will want to keep.

Would the Bruins Trade Ullmark to a Divisional Rival?

If you think this will never happen because the Bruins would never trade a good player to a divisional rival, may I take you back to 2008-2009? In the offseason, Boston sent Phil Kessel over to Toronto for two first-round picks and a second-round pick. The two first-round picks turned into Dougie Hamilton and Tyler Seguin, who both became star NHLers, although neither stayed in Boston for very long.

Related: Maple Leafs Need to Fix Goaltending to Be Serious Cup Contenders

Divisional trades are not a regular occurrence, but they can happen. Since the expansion in 1967, the Bruins and Maple Leafs have completed 15 trades, some of which were important for both franchises. Yes, there was the Kessel deal, but there was also a goaltender swap.

At the 2005 Draft, Toronto had the 21st-overall pick and they chose promising young Finnish goaltender Tuukka Rask. A year later, someone in Toronto thought that it would be a good idea to trade Rask (who still hadn’t played any games in the NHL) to Boston receiving in return goaltender Andrew Raycroft. In other words, Toronto set up the Bruins for the post Tim Thomas era really well.

At the 2011 Trade Deadline, the Maple Leafs — who clearly thought they hadn’t helped the Bruins enough — sent them Thomas Kaberle for Joe Colborne, a 2012 second-round pick and their first pick at the 2011 BHK Entry Draft. Kaberle was an integral part of the Bruins’ Cup run and Claude Julien’s men got to hoist the Cup.

With history showing the two teams can strike deals, all Treliving has to do is open talks with Boston GM Don Sweeney and make him an offer he cannot resist. He who dares, wins, as they say.

What About the Maple Leafs’ Current Goaltenders?

Come July 1, Murray and Samsonov will both be unrestricted free agents and I doubt either of them will receive an offer if Toronto can find a better goaltender to trade for. Since coming over from Ottawa, Murray only took part in 26 games with the Maple Leafs, because he needed to get bilateral hip surgery.

As for Samsonov, his latest season wasn’t all that convincing. He did amass a record of 23-7-8 but his GAA stood at 3.13 and his SV% at .890. While this is enough to get wins in the regular season as Toronto scores a lot of goals and can win high-scoring contests, that doesn’t work in the playoffs when the action is much tighter and even the best of the best struggle to find the back of the net. In moments like these, you need a goaltender who can shut the door.

Enter Joseph Woll, who once given the net in the playoffs, shone brightly. The sole issue with him has to be his health, as he couldn’t play Game 7 of the first-round matchup with the Bruins. He has had a back injury, a high ankle sprain, and a shoulder injury. Even though Maple Leafs brass said he is still very much in the team’s plan and thet intend to start next season with him as their number-one goaltender, they will need a safety net if the youngster keeps getting injured.

Getting Ullark would make sense as he’s used to sharing the workload so he would not complain if there was a 50% split that would allow Woll to properly settle in the NHL. However, he does have a modified no-trade clause which stipulates he can submit a 16-team list of where he does not want to go and July 1, the clause will become a 15-team no-trade list. It’s possible Torontio is on there, but sometimes, players accept the trade nonetheless…stranger things have happened.

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