Why a Maple Leafs extension for Joseph Woll would make sense

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Now, for Joseph Woll to stay healthy.

The Maple Leafs apparently are getting some business out of the way early, with the goaltender reportedly on the verge of signing a three-year contract extension with an average annual value between $3.5 million and $4 million US.

That was posted to X by hockey analyst Kevin Weekes on Monday morning.

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In a text, Woll’s agent Allain Roy told the Toronto Sun that it would be “premature” to comment one way or the other on a new Woll contract. Otherwise, there was no denial nor confirmation from Roy.

Woll is eligible to sign an extension on July 1. The last year of his current contract carries an AAV of $766,667 for the 2024-25 season before he would become a restricted free agent next summer.

Though Woll, who turns 26 on July 12, has a history of injuries, that the sides are talking contract makes sense.

Leafs general manager Brad Treliving made it clear after the Leafs season ended in May with the first-round loss to the Boston Bruins that the club’s confidence in Woll had not wavered. The biggest reason: When Woll has been in the net, he has provided sharp goaltending for the Leafs and has given the team reasons to believe he can be a bona fide No. 1 goalie.

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“I’ve got faith in Joe,” Treliving said on May 10. “The biggest question about Joe is he’s getting injured a lot. We have to dig into that.

“Sometimes that happens, sometimes bad luck happens. Is there a training issue that we have to deal with?

“We need to change something in his off-ice routine.”

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Woll’s latest injury came at the end of Game 6 against the Bruins, when he sprained his back in an attempt to stop Boston forward Morgan Geekie from scoring.

Ilya Samsonov returned to the Leafs crease for Game 7 and the Leafs lost 2-1 in overtime to Bruins, bringing another early end to their Stanley Cup playoff dreams. There has been no indication that the Leafs have any interest in re-signing Samsonov, who is headed for unrestricted free agency on July 1.

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Before he was hurt against the Bruins, Woll missed nearly three months after he suffered a high ankle sprain on Dec. 7 in a game against the Ottawa Senators.

Thanks to injuries, Woll has played in just 36 regular-season games in the past three seasons. A third-round pick of the Leafs in 2016, Woll has compiled a record of 21-13-1 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.76 goals-against average.

If the Woll negotiations indeed result in a contract extension, we’ll be curious to see what path Treliving takes to round out the Leafs’ goaltending picture.

If Woll can stay healthy, he has given every indication that he can be the starter. And if Woll can stay healthy, the contract will wind up being what we would call team-friendly for the Leafs.

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If Woll can’t get past his injury issues? It seems to be a bridge the Leafs are willing to cross if they have to, and one can imagine they would properly prepare themselves for that possibility.

Obviously, the Leafs are leaning toward the belief that Woll can keep his health, for the most part, going forward. If they thought otherwise, they could have waited through the coming season and made a decision on Woll’s a future a year from now.

Whether the Woll injuries continue, Treliving will have to ensure that acquires a netminder who can step in on a moment’s notice.

Speculation in the weeks leading up to free agency has linked the Leafs to goalies such as Laurent Brossoit, Anthony Stolarz and Cam Talbot.

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There also has to be anticipation within the organization that Dennis Hildeby will be able to provide a degree of relief if it’s required. Hildeby had a .913 save percentage in 41 games with the Toronto Marlies last season, but there is no expectation anywhere that the Leafs would go into Craig Berube’s first season as head coach with a Woll/Hildeby tandem.

The Leafs had interest in veteran goalie Jacob Markstrom before he was acquired by the New Jersey Devils via trade last week from the Calgary Flames.

Whether a potential Woll signing would influence any perceived Leafs interest in acquiring, for example, goalie Juuse Saros from the Nashville Predators would remain to be seen.

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X: @koshtorontosun

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