Column, Ilya Samsonov, Key Post, Matt Murray, News and Rumors, Nick Robertson, Noel Acciari, Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Acciari, Robertson & Murray

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll look at the different arbitration numbers for tomorrow’s meeting between the Maple Leafs and Ilya Samsonov. The salary offers are far apart. Now what? 

Second, I share how Noel Acciari’s decision to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins was linked to the personal connection he had made with former Maple Leafs’ general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas, as well as the positive testimonial from former teammate Brandon Tanev.

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Third, I’ll look again at an almost forgotten player in the Maple Leafs’ system. That’s Nick Robertson. I’m rooting for the young man to have an injury-free season. If he does, can he reprise his scoring ability and begin to reach his potential as a young talent? 

Related: Peter “Foppa” Forsberg: A Biography

Finally, I’ll look at the plight of oft-injured Matt Murray and what the Maple Leafs might do with him and his contract. There’s a rumor that he remains too injured to play this season. If that’s so, will the team place him on the long-term injured reserve?

Item One: Why Are the Maple Leafs Low-Balling Samsonov?

In 2022, after Samsonov was not tendered a qualifying offer, the Maple Leafs signed him to a one-year, $1.8 million contract. As it turned out, it was a good thing to do. Samsonov had an impressive season. He recorded a 27-10-5 record, with a goals-against-average (GAA) of 2.33 and a save percentage of .919. 

Ilya Samsonov Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Samsonov, Toronto Maple Leafs (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

He also helped lead the team to its first playoff series victory in 19 seasons. Now the Maple Leafs and Samsonov are currently set to face off for arbitration. As part of the arbitration process, the team offered Samsonov a salary of $2.4 million, and Samsonov’s representatives submitted $4.9 million.

Because Samsonov is one year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent (RFA), speculation is that a one-year deal is likely to be the outcome of arbitration or a settlement. The Maple Leafs seem to have preferred to keep the salary offered reasonably low, which would allow Samsonov to reach unrestricted free agency sooner. 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Tavares, Who’s in Goal?

All this said, one would have to think the team would hope to sign their goalie to a multi-year deal. However, this would likely mean buying out his multiple unrestricted years. The bottom line is that this move would lead to a higher average annual value (AAV).

A one-year settlement for Samsonov will likely fall in the salary range of $3.5-to-4.5 million. That’s close to the salary-cap hit of Matt Murray’s final season if the team can buy him out. Maple Leafs’ GM Brad Treliving is reported to be trying to trade Murray before the second buyout window opens after Samsonov’s arbitration hearing. 

Matt Murray Toronto Maple Leafs
Matt Murray, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This scenario is something for Maple Leafs’ fans to follow.

Item Two: Noel Acciari’s Personal Connection with Kyle Dubas Led Him to the Penguins

Acciari, a physical forward who came to the team with Ryan O’Reilly from the St. Louis Blues, recently signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Interestingly, he admitted that he had followed former-Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas to the Penguins. Acciari had formed a special connection with Dubas. And, when Dubas moved to the Penguins as their President of Hockey Operations, that connection played a crucial role in Acciari’s decision to sign there.

Related: The Boss of Long Island: Mike Bossy’s Life Story

When Dubas shared his plans for the Penguins with him, Acciari was impressed by the team’s goals and where he would fit into their system. As a result, Acciari signed a three-year deal with an average annual value of $2 million to head off to Pittsburgh – the Steel City.

Acciari’s former teammate Brandon Tanev, who’s now with the Seattle Kraken, also weighed in on what it was like to play in Pittsburgh. Tanev spoke highly of playing with the Penguins, and that added weight to the appeal of the team as a destination.

Noel Acciari Toronto Maple Leafs
Noel Acciari, when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs. All three of these players are now gone to other teams.
(Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As a Maple Leafs fan who appreciated Acciari’s play in Toronto, I wish him luck with his new team. I’m looking forward to games between the two teams – perhaps, even in the postseason.

Item Three: Can Nick Robertson Finally Have an Injury-Free Season?

Robertson has sort of been a forgotten player in Toronto. Once touted as the franchise’s best prospect, he’s struggled with injuries over recent seasons. However, if he could put together an injury-free season, what might he be able to accomplish?

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At just 21 years of age, Robertson is still considered a young talent with long-term potential. If he could make the team’s roster, that could be beneficial for both him and the organization. Considering his scoring ability, work ethic, and potential impact on the team, Robertson should have a chance to make the Maple Leafs’ opening night lineup for the upcoming season.

Related: Why Nick Robertson Has Won Over Maple Leafs’ Fans

The young forward has the skill. He just needs to stay healthy. However, Robertson demonstrated his potential during last preseason, when he led the team in points. I recall last preseason that head coach Sheldon Keefe went out of his way to praise Robertson’s skills.

I’m hoping Robertson can show his abilities once again. He contributes offensively at the NHL level when he’s healthy. Although he’s not big, he’s a willing warrior – perhaps to his downfall. He’s also willing to engage defensively, which could make him an asset at both ends of the ice.

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

No one can ever fault Robertson’s hard work trying to improve his game. His development in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Toronto Marlies has also been promising. There he’s been a point-per-game player. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Samsonov’s salary arbitration hearing with the Maple Leafs is scheduled for tomorrow (July 21). With the arbitration comes a second buyout window for the team. This window could be where they decide to buy out Murray.

However, there’s speculation about Murray’s health. His history of concussions and his ankle injury might not make it possible for the Maple Leafs to buy him out of his contract. Instead, Elliotte Friedman suggests that the team might place him on long-term injured reserve or potentially trade him with an additional incentive (a “sweetener”). 

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