The Maple Leafs have moved quickly in free agency to land a goalie to tandem with Jack Campbell, inking 29-year-old Czech goaltender Petr Mrazek to a three-year, $3.8 million AAV contract.
**Breaking News** From what I’m told, it appears Petr Mrazek coming off an impressive 3 yr run with the @Canes , will be signing a 3 yr deal with @MapleLeafs @espn @NHL @NHLNetwork #TSNHockey #HockeyTwitter
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) July 28, 2021
Petr Mrazek Scouting Report
When he’s on top of his game, his speed and reflexes combine with an almost fun sense of creativity in net to make him hard to beat and even harder to look away from. When he’s off his game, though, he’s easy to trick by shiftier offenses and he allows goals that just shouldn’t happen at the NHL level. He’s either an elite-level talent or he’s a frustrating enigma, and it’s hard to really pinpoint whether he’s got the ability to excel as a number one as a result.
Mrazek is coming off of a 12-game season for Carolina in which he was sidelined for weeks due to thumb surgery and also missed time later on in the season due to a lower-body issue. His numbers were more than solid when he was healthy and in the crease with a .923 save percentage in his 12 games, a year after a bit of a down season for him at .905 over 40 games in 2019-20. His .944 save percentage at 5v5 ranked third in the NHL among goalies with a minimum of 500 minutes played, and his high-danger save percentage ranked fourth at .871.
Those are small samples from last season behind a good defensive team in Carolina, but if we expand the sample back to 2018-19 and filter out the goaltenders with fewer than 3,000 minutes played, Mrazek is 16th in the NHL in 5v5 save percentage and seventh in high-danger save percentage — the numbers, albeit not the consistent workload, of a solid NHL starter.
The goaltending environment was comparable between Carolina and Toronto this past season in that both teams limited rush attempts against quite effectively — Mrazek faced just 1.32/60 in his small sample (Carolina’s Alex Nedeljkovic faced 1.17/60) while Campbell faced just 1.09, all well outside the top 30 in the league among goaltenders with a minimum of 500 minutes played.
The question marks that follow a lot of 1A/1B goalies in the league apply to Mrazek as well: he’s battled some injuries and inconsistency year to year, but the career baseline is high enough and he’s put together enough solid stretches of play — including a 40+ game season of .914 goaltending in 2018-19 for Carolina and a 50+ game season of .921 goaltending for Detroit in 2015-16 — to believe he can split the workload competently and potentially carry the load for stretches depending on the health status and performance level of Campbell, who has played more than 30 games just once in his career (vs. Mrazek’s five).
After signing a two-year deal with a $3.125 million AAV in the 2019 offseason, Mrazek’s new deal comes in higher in terms of both the term and the AAV. Coming off of a .905 in 40 games in 2019-20 and just a 12-game season in 2020-21, that’s a little surprising. It will leave the Leafs with around $5.5 million in cap space with which to shore up their forward and defensive depth (~$4.5 million after the expected signing of Michael Bunting).
Undoubtedly, in an ideal world, the Leafs would’ve preferred to add a shorter-term contract while they find out what becomes of Jack Campbell in the final year of his $1.6 million AAV deal. Does Campbell continue to take strides and prove he can be a full-fledged 50-60 game starter, or do injuries continue to plague him and the test of a full 82-game schedule reveal why he hasn’t been a regular starter throughout his career?
As the Leafs were competing in the UFA market for a solution and needed an established 1B option with a considerable track record in the league, they were always going to need to pony up a little on the term and AAV to land a legitimate platoon goalie. $4.4 million for a quality tandem, if that’s how it plays out, is obviously a more than palatable cap allotment for this season — much cheaper than most teams around the league — but as always with goalies, we’ll wait and see how Mrazek fares consistency and health-wise as he enters into his 30s.
If Campbell emerges as the clearly superior goaltender worthy of a reasonably expensive long-term deal after this season, the Leafs will be a little overextended in the net if they sign him to one, as they would’ve preferred a cheaper backup than $3.8 million in such a scenario given their cap constraints. That said, it would require a real bottoming out for Mrazek not to be moveable in a year at age 30 on a 2x$3.8 million AAV contract — and expect the Leafs to front-load this Mrazek contract as much as possible to plan for this contingency.
It would’ve been a big gamble to go cheap at the backup position and assume Campbell will prove he’s an upper-echelon starter over a 50-60 game sample this season — a bet the Leafs couldn’t reasonably make at this juncture.