Just after the Leafs were eliminated by Columbus, Chris Johnston wrote a column where he said the Leafs were likely to trade one of the core, and he meant someone below Auston Matthews and above Kasperi Kapanen on the depth chart. Or maybe on the list of cap hits is a better descriptor.

I made a poll of the players he named, and you responded this way:

I was very struck then by how low everyone rated the idea of trading Frederik Andersen, and yet to me, out of all of those players, he seemed like the only player you really could trade and not automatically end up much worse off. I could make an argument for Morgan Rielly as another possibility, but today is about the Andersen concept.

Since then, we’ve heard from several sources that the Leafs are either listening to offers or actively shopping Andersen. His agent gave the standard we expect this sort of thing style of answer when asked about it.

Why would the Leafs do it?

Andersen is about to turn 31 in October, just before he plays the final year of his contract that has a $5 million cap hit. His signing bonus that has presumably already been paid is $4 million, leaving him cheap in cash salary and not too difficult to fit under the cap for quite a few teams. He has a 10-team list on a no-trade clause, however.

The Leafs gained a very small amount of cap space by trading Kasperi Kapanen, and if they don’t add anyone and run a short roster, they could add a player with a cap hit of around $3.5 million. That’s not likely to be an addition that moves the needle very much.

Transforming that space into something heftier by converting Andersen into a cheaper goalie might be worth it. This is a decision the Leafs have to make, since he is a pending UFA, but they don’t have to make it now. Considering it now seems wise, however. The fact that they are so publicly considering it seems to indicate they aren’t strongly inclined to re-sign him at 31, but I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point.

He’s not a shutout, close the door goalie. He’s a win it 6-5 goalie some nights and a 2-1 goalie on others. In Anaheim, with a dull, low-event team, he really shone. In the chaos of the Leafs fluctuating defensive ability, he’s struggled at times. He also just had the worst year of his career in the regular season, but the recency biased view of his playoffs is more rosy.

Usually you move out a UFA at the trade deadline before their deal expires. But if you do that with a starting goalie, you better be tanking or have a better one in the wings. Doing it now makes a lot more sense than doing it mid-season for the Leafs because they do not have a starter in the wings.

Doing it now also makes sense if the Leafs have a plan to replace Andersen already in mind. They may want a long-term, younger starter. They may believe in Jack Campbell and the future potential of Joe Woll and Ian Scott and be looking more for a younger tandem partner. I can’t say what they think, but if the Leafs don’t have a solution to the problem created by trading Andersen, the smart move is to just let him play out his contract, which I think is as likely to happen as anything else.

What would the Leafs get for him?

Not much. And the goal is to trade for or sign a goalie who makes 2-3 million less, with the return for Andersen himself being secondary.

For example: Vegas got Malcolm Subban, a prospect and a second-round pick for Robin Lehner, after he’d been filtered through the Leafs to cut his salary. He’s their playoff starter.

There just aren’t many trades of starters because there aren’t very many of them, and when they are traded, it’s usually while a team is rebuilding. The currency is usually draft picks, and given how hard Kyle Dubas worked his dialing finger to find someone who would give him a first-round pick for Kapanen, he might be fine with that.

The market for goalies is nothing like the trade market for players. Backups are extremely cheap because they’re interchangeable and plentiful, but starters of value usually number less than 15 in any given season. Goalies are also really hard to predict, so trading for one is fraught with risk. (This is one of those double-edged swords the Leafs could cut themselves with even if they do everything right on this issue.)

The other reason the return might be a little light, other than the lack of term, Andersen’s age, and his bad season, is that he’s not going to be the only goalie on the market. On the other hand, that’s actually why this is possible for the Leafs to consider. (What’s the opposite of a double-edged sword?)

The Competition

Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Robin Lehner, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howward, Jacob Markstrom, Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, Anton Khodobin, Mike Condon, Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Aaron Dell, Keith Kinkaid, Laurent Brossoit, Louis Domingue, Ryan Miller ...

This list just keeps going, and that’s just the UFAs.

There’s also Matt Murray, Linus Ullmark, Alexandar Gerogiev, Kaapo Kahkonen, Mackenzie Blackwood and Tristan Jarry among the expiring RFAs.

Pittsburgh’s GM (remember him from such hits as the Kapanen trade) has said outright he will trade one of Jarry and Murray. That’s not actually a bad negotiating tactic, as it will light a fire under them both to sign early to reasonable amounts to not get traded, or to get traded to a cap-strapped contender if that’s what they want.

There’s a goalie for every need on the UFA list, and some will re-sign with their current teams, and like Andersen, many of them aren’t young. But it seems like there’s pressure to keep contracts low here from the volume of players on the market, and from the flat salary cap.

Why shouldn’t the Leafs do it?

There’s only one scenario where the Leafs should do this, and that’s a situation where they’re transitioning to their future goaltending solution and making cap space for another addition at the same time. There’s no way they should do this as a speculative move to make space.

The only big reason not to do it, beyond not being able to find the right goalie, is the expansion draft. The Leafs will have to expose one goalie and can only protect one, so that makes things difficult with Jack Campbell under contract. But if the Leafs find their goaltending future, Campbell surely becomes expendable.

The smaller reason is that little problem of goalies being hard to predict. Andersen has career results that say he is an excellent, but not elite, starter. Any change is risky and might end up with a season worse than even Andersen’s worst this year. But change is also inevitable, so embracing it now might be the right move.

Get out your crystal ball and tell me if he will play the next season to the end as a Maple Leaf:

Will Frederik Andersen finish his next season on the Leafs?

Depends what the standings are at the deadline196
He might start it, but he won’t finish it178
He’s going to go now522