Insider provides update on Ilya Samsonov ahead of his arbitration date and the Leafs' plan for Matt Murray
BY MIKE ARMENTI JULY 16, 2023 (7:04 PM)
Samsonov's arbitration hearing is set to occur this Friday. In terms of whether or not the two sides plan to go all the way to Friday and perhaps even see through the arbitration process, Pagnotta does not believe that will be the case. In fact, when asked about whether or not Samsonov will sign a deal in the coming days and avoid arbitration, Pagnotta had this to say:
"I've got to imagine... Typically every season, it's rare that we get too many arbitration hearings actually get under way... I've go to imagine that they want to come to a resolution well before hand, so you've got a bit of a deadline going into Friday, but that's going to tee up their whole situation - is it going to help them with some cap space after the fact? Can they buy out Matt Murray once that window opens up for them? How does that all get financially situated and how does it affect some other potential moves. This is, in the middle of July, a pretty significant week for the Leafs."
There are many who still believe that a trade is the better option for the Leafs when it comes to Matt Murray, but Alberga and Pagnotta are both of the mindset that if a trade was possible, it would have happened already. The fact of the matter is that Murray's $8M in actual salary this season has basically pushed teams away and for the ones who are interested, they'll want the Leafs to pay a premium for taking on that deal. Pagnotta seemed pretty convinced that a buyout is the only option.
"I've got to think so. If they had something cooking, they would have done it already. Ideally, you want to move him out and you want a cap hit of zero, but you gotta pay for that and clearly they're not willing to do that. If a buyout occurs, they'll free up $4M this coming season. That's big. Next season, they get tacked on ~$2M, but the cap is going up, so they'll be able to maneuver that a lot better, but right now, freeing up $4M is huge for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they try to navigate their cap situation and are still looking to make other potential moves. If they can make this happen, that's a big win for [Brad] Treliving."
As far as what Samsonov's deal will end up looking like, Pagnotta believes long-term is probably out of the question. Instead, the Leafs and Samsonov are likely headed the bridge route. He had a very interesting theory about just how high Samsonov's AAV will be as well.
"I've gotta think you're looking at a short-term situation... maybe you look to Adin Hill in Vegas, and you go 'ok, he came out of nowhere. We had some inkling that Samsonov would be our guy, so that money's going to have to be above that', so you're looking at north of $4M, so that kind of evens out and offsets that buyout from Murray... I've got to imagine you're looking at short-term, bridge type of deal, but you're looking at $4M+ for Samsonov."
Adin Hill signed a 2-year deal last week worth $4.9M per season. Like Samsonov, Hill had a breakout year last year, but unlike Samsonov he has a Stanley Cup to his credit, so it's unlikely that Samsonov will get up near that $4.9M range. It seems far more likely that he ends up closer to the $4M floor than Hill's cap ceiling. Of course, we'll find out how it all plays out this week.