The Maple Leafs are gambling on Joseph Woll's upside (2024)

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made a big bet on Joseph Woll.

Even though Woll has started a mere 38 games in the NHL (regular season and playoffs combined), and even though his contract doesn’t expire for another year, the Leafs are signing him to a three-year contract extension worth just under $11 million.

Advertisem*nt

Woll’s new deal, which will start in the 2025-26 season, carries a cap hit of $3.66 million. His new tandem-mate, Anthony Stolarz, will be pulling in $2.5 million on a two-year deal he signed on Monday. The Leafs are also bringing back Matt Murray to be the No. 3 following an entire season missed due to injury.

Why now is really the question with Woll. Why not wait to see how Woll fares next season as a potential first-time No. 1 while earning less than $800,000?

Last season was Woll’s first full run in the NHL. He appeared in 25 games. He stopped just under nine goals more than expected. His .907 save percentage was only slightly above league average (.903).

The high-ankle sprain he suffered in December played a large role in how things played out.

Woll was just beginning to cement his place in the net when the injury occurred in Ottawa. He had a spiffy .916 save percentage at that point. He wasn’t nearly as effective when he returned, posting a .890 save percentage in 10 starts.

The Leafs went with Ilya Samsonov to begin the postseason.

GO DEEPERNHL contract grades: Maple Leafs become more well-rounded with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Anthony Stolarz

Woll grabbed control in Game 5 and was superb, leading the Leafs to a 2-1 win. He was excellent again, yielding just one goal, in the Game 6 win that followed. It was a flash of the upside the Leafs are clearly hoping Woll can deliver on a more permanent basis.

Woll was unavailable to play in Game 7 though because of injury. And that’s part of the downside here.

Woll can’t stay on the ice. He appeared in only 83 games during his first four seasons in the minors, missing plenty of time along the way with injuries.

After the season, Leafs GM Brad Treliving noted that while the team believed in Woll, they also needed to find a way to keep him healthy.

There wasn’t much downside in waiting to see if the 25-year-old could get through a full season with few to no issues and, of course, play well.

Advertisem*nt

Woll would have been a restricted free agent next summer. There was no open market to worry about. He would have arbitration rights, yes, but how much is he really drawing in that case if all goes well next season?

Last summer, Jeremy Swayman went to arbitration and won a one-year contract with a cap hit of $3.475 million. Swayman had played in 88 games to that point, with a .920 save percentage.

Even Samsonov, with a longer track record than Woll would have had, drew only a $3.55 million cap hit on his one-year arbitration award last summer.

The Leafs’ crease feels — again — like a point of real uncertainty.

What if Woll either struggles to stay healthy and/or perform well enough next season to justify a starter’s workload? He’ll enter the 2025-26 season making more than four times as much as before with a backup in Stolarz who has started a total of 83 games in the NHL and never more than 24 in a single season.

Stolarz did play well last season in his 24 starts (.927 save percentage) and he’s gigantic at 6-foot-6. Can he keep that kind of performance up, or something serviceable, with a much bigger workload, like 30-40 starts?

GO DEEPERChris Tanev is a potentially shrewd bet for the Maple Leafs

There’s also the middle ground that sees Woll miss time and play just OK, with the occasional flash of brilliance, a season that looks a lot like the one that just passed. In which case, we’ll also be wondering why exactly the Leafs got so antsy in extending him this summer.

The way this goes right isn’t out of the realm of possibility either. Woll excels next season. He stays healthy. He stops a lot more pucks than expected. The Leafs win a lot of games when he’s in the net, including in the playoffs. His new contract kicks in the following season, not long after his 26th birthday, and all the questions about the state of the Leafs’ crease disappear.

Advertisem*nt

Would this contract still be there next summer in that case? Maybe it’s a little pricier, especially if Woll really takes a step and breaks into the fringes of the Vezina Trophy conversation, but probably not by much.

If that is indeed the case, the Leafs have a top-end starter for a bargain price. And if he can keep it up, a top-end starter for a bargain price for two more seasons after that. They will deserve all kinds of credit if that turns out to be the case.

Woll might be a great goalie. It’s just too early to know for sure.

(Top photo: Mark Blinch / NHLI via Getty Images)

Stats and research courtesy of Cap Friendly and Hockey Reference

The Maple Leafs are gambling on Joseph Woll's upside (3)The Maple Leafs are gambling on Joseph Woll's upside (4)

Jonas Siegel is a staff writer on the Maple Leafs for The Athletic. Jonas joined The Athletic in 2017 from the Canadian Press, where he served as the national hockey writer. Previously, he spent nearly a decade covering the Leafs with AM 640, TSN Radio and TSN.ca. Follow Jonas on Twitter @jonassiegel

The Maple Leafs are gambling on Joseph Woll's upside (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 6201

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Birthday: 1996-05-19

Address: Apt. 114 873 White Lodge, Libbyfurt, CA 93006

Phone: +5983010455207

Job: Legacy Representative

Hobby: Blacksmithing, Urban exploration, Sudoku, Slacklining, Creative writing, Community, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.