With Matt Murray bound for Robidas Island Long-Term Injured Reserve, the Maple Leafs have rounded out their goaltending depth chart with the addition of some veteran insurance. Martin Jones has been signed to a one-year, $875k contract.

Via McKeen’s, here is the background on the 33-year-old Jones, who was once a high-performing 60+ game starter but fell off a cliff as the Sharks organization sharply declined in competitiveness following their 2019 Conference Finals appearance, stringing together a bunch of sub .900 seasons spanning his time in San Jose, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

“Very few teams looked to be good fits for Jones this off-season after he once again struggled to regain his early career form … It feels a bit like a broken record to evaluate Martin Jones year after year as his career continues to exhibit strong Groundhog Day-esque tendencies. He still lacks the structure and balance to his lateral movements and reads that could stabilize his timing and close off the massive holes he opened up in his own crease for shooters to capitalize on, even after he finally left San Jose and opted for a fresh start clear across the continental United States. There’s not much that Philadelphia had to offer that made it seem likely that Jones would bounce back in 2021-22, which makes it hard to truly evaluate if he’s capable of ever reaching league-average full-season stats again.”

Jones ended up appearing in quite a few games for Seattle in 2022-23 (48), allowing an improved 2.95 goals per game but posting a lowly .887 save percentage as the Kraken produced an upstart season and suppressed shots at an elite level (just 27 shots against per game on average) while Jones struggled to hold up his end of the bargain. Jones appeared briefly in just one of the Kraken’s 14 playoff games, stopping two shots in relief of Philipp Grubauer in a 6-3 loss to Dallas in round two.

As far as over-the-hill, sub-league average goalies go, Jones does boast a lot of playoff experience — and success — on his resume. He’s been to the Conference Finals once and the Cup Finals once, starting 20+ games in each of those two runs and posting a career .917 save percentage in the postseason, albeit those days are a distant memory now. There is always the fantasy that if push came to shove (and if he’s still in Toronto), Jones could channel his early-career playoff mojo and turn back the clock, but he is really coming to Toronto primarily as a veteran insurance policy with Matt Murray LTIR-bound and Joseph Woll very light on NHL experience. More likely than not, Jones is going to end up on waivers at some point, possibly multiple times.

Woll showed a lot of promise between his outstanding AHL performances (.927) and highly-poised NHL starts (.932) in 2022-23, although it can’t be forgotten that the 25-year-old isn’t that far removed from the young goalie who simply could not stay in the net for any length of time due to a litany of injury issues. After he was hired as the new GM of the Leafs, Brad Treliving was quick to point out that he wasn’t getting ahead of himself with Woll as of yet:

We have Joe [Woll], the young guy who finished off well. I’ve learned sometimes those young guys finish off well and it doesn’t necessarily mean the start is going to go well, right?

That scenario Treliving described — Woll, who is waiver eligible, getting off to a slow start — could put the Leafs in a somewhat tricky position given their cap situation depending on the roster/cap scenario at the time. They certainly can’t lose a cost-controlled goaltender with Woll’s upside, but Woll’s leash won’t be extremely long in the backup role behind Ilya Samsonov. A veteran goaltender of Jones’ experience can be valuable to keep around as the Maple Leafs’ goaltending injuries proved time and again over the past few seasons. The Leafs used their third or fourth-string goaltenders (Woll and the departed Erik Kallgren) 17 times last season, including four appearances for Woll in the playoffs; in 2021-22, they called on them 18 times.

As it stands, however, carrying three goalies isn’t possible to accommodate. The Leafs are currently $13,256,450 over the cap with a 23-man roster but can exceed it by $10,312,500 due to the LTIR relief available on the Murray and Jake Muzzin contracts. That gives them around $2,943,950 left to clear. Sending down a waiver-exempt forward (or waiving Dylan Gambrell) brings them closer to the $2 million mark. Waiving Conor Timmins’ $1.1 million off the roster, for example, brings them within a million or so of cap compliance; meaning, they can’t fit three goalies on the current roster unless other moves are made to open up more cap space.

It appears quite possible that the Leafs simply enter camp as is, see how the cookie crumbles in terms of roster battles/injury situations, and if they end up waiving Jones, so be it; it’s to be expected. They can hope he clears, and if not, they will continue to keep an eye out for additional veteran goaltending depth as the season progresses, while hoping the likes of Keith Petruzzelli and/or Dennis Hildeby get off to strong starts in the AHL to give them passable enough call-up options should injuries strike in the first few months of the season.

As the Maple Leafs have learned time and again in recent years (dating back to the Curtis McElhinney/Garret Sparks decision), in the absence of young, NHL-calibre, waiver-exempt goalie talent, if you’re spending to or above the cap limit each season, this is the game that plays out between the pipes each and every Fall.