The remaining unrestricted free-agent market for goaltenders isn’t exactly the deepest with the options mostly being veteran backups or third-stringers. But it appears at least one netminder has a potential suitor as Larry Brooks of the New York Post suggests that Brian Elliott could be on his way to Toronto.
The 38-year-old is a 16-year NHL veteran and has spent time with six different teams. Tampa Bay was the last of those squads as Elliott suited up for two seasons with them, posting a 2.96 GAA along with a .900 SV% in 41 games. Notably, Elliott has only surpassed the .900 SV% mark once in the last four seasons.
With that in mind, the connection to the Maple Leafs might seem a bit surprising. However, projected backup Joseph Woll is still inexperienced with just 11 career NHL regular season appearances under his belt. Matt Murray remains in the organization for the time being but with Toronto’s salary cap situation, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be suiting up for them in 2023-24 as things stand.
Meanwhile, among their other four goalies on an NHL contract (Dennis Hildeby, Artur Akhtyamov, Keith Petruzzelli, and Vyacheslav Peksa), none of them have played a single minute at the top level. Only Petruzzelli (30 games) and Hildeby (two games) have played in the AHL. Accordingly, counting on any of them to come up and serve as an injury replacement for Ilya Samsonov or Woll would be risky.
Perhaps that’s where Elliott could fit in. While playing in the AHL seems unlikely at this stage of his career, he could be someone who is waived and officially stashed with the AHL Marlies but doesn’t actually suit up for them, instead simply skating to stay ready. Basically, something similar to what they did with Wayne Simmonds for long stretches of last season.
A role like that might not be the most endearing, but it would give Elliott a chance to sign with his hometown team and perhaps get a few more NHL appearances under his belt. If not Elliott, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Toronto look at another veteran to fill this type of role in 2023-24.