Maple Leafs Commentary: Samsonov, Aube-Kubel & Gaudette

Toronto Maple Leafs’ General Manager Kyle Dubas was busy on day one of free agency. He signed four players. In this post, we’ll share more about who these players are and what they might bring to the team.

Player One: Goalie Ilya Samsonov

The Maple Leafs lost two Ilya’s, in Mikheyev and Lyubushkin, and gained one.  

After acquiring Matt Murray two days prior, we had expected the Maple Leafs might add another goalie. Dubas did just that as his first move once free agency opened, signing Ilya Samsonov to a one-year, $1.8 million “Show me” contract

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After signing Stanley Cup Champion Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26 million deal, the Washington Capitals decided to go with 28-year-old Charlie Lindgren as their backup. That move cost the Capitals about a million dollars less than it would have cost them to qualify Samsonov. The move also left Samsonov a UFA, and the Maple Leafs pounced.

Related: Maple Leafs News: Goodbye to Mikheyev, Lyubuskin, Blackwell & Campbell

With the Capitals, Samsonov’s career started out with a bang. He posted a .913 save percentage and a 2.55 goals-against-average in his rookie season and he did collect some Calder votes for Rookie of the Year. However, he never took that next step in his development. Samsonov finished this past season with a pedestrian .896 save percentage and a 3.02 goals-against-average in 44 appearances. 

On a positive note, the Capitals did have a 0.683 winning percentage over the three seasons Samsonov was in the net. His record in total was 52-22-8. 

Ilya Samsonov Washington Capitals
Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As for injuries, Samsonov missed some time this past January with an undisclosed injury. He failed a physical in 2020 but it was reportedly due to an injury he suffered while training in Russia. 

Player Two: Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Dubas’ second move was to sign Nicolas Aube-Kubel. The 26-year-old Aube-Kubel went from being placed on waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers in November of last season to playing 67 regular-season games and 14 playoff games for the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche.

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Nicolas Aubé-Kubel to 1-Year Deal

Despite only being 5-foot-11, Aube-Kubel plays a physical game. He recorded over 350 hits in 169 regular season games, as well as over 100 hits in 27 playoff games. According to the website, Aube-Kubel has had 10 fights in his professional career. 

Aube-Kubel has not created much offense in the NHL. He did score 11 goals last season, being used primarily as a fourth-line winger. When he played junior hockey for Val d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL, Aube-Kubel scored 76 goals and had 164 points in 122 games. He does have some offensive potential. 

Nicolas Aube-Kubel Colorado Avalanche
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At best, Aube-Kubal could replace Ondrej Kase on the third-line right wing. If he fails to do so, the most likely place for him on the roster would be the fourth-line, right-wing spot currently occupied by Wayne Simmonds.

Player Three: Adam Gaudette

Adam Gaudette’s claim to fame is that he was the 2018 Hobey Baker Trophy winner as the best US college player. In Gaudette’s last two seasons playing for Northeastern University, he scored 56 goals and 112 points in just 75 games. 

After playing only 14 games in the AHL for the Utica Comets in 2018-19, scoring five goals and eleven points, Gaudette graduated to the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks had drafted him in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Related: Vancouver Canucks’ Adam Gaudette: Is He Here to Stay?

In his second full season with the Canucks, Gaudette scored 12 goals and 33 points in 59 games (that’s a 17-goal, 46-point pace for 82 games). That turned out to be his best season. 

In 98 games with Vancouver, Chicago, and Ottawa since then, Gaudette has managed just 10 goals and 25 points. He was also pointless in ten playoff games for the Canucks. 

Adam Gaudette Ottawa Senators
Adam Gaudette, formerly of the Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gaudette is listed as 6-foot-1, 170 pounds. He was diagnosed in early 2021 as having a stomach problem that prevented him from gaining weight and would cause him to be sick in the mornings. It was felt that the illness had a great effect on his ability to compete at the NHL level. 

The biggest question with Gaudette is his physical capabilities. His history has shown that he is a talented player with a decent hockey IQ.

Player Four: Denis Malgin

Dubas signed Dennis Malgin to a one-year $750,000 deal as his last move of the day. Malgin, who has played in the Swiss League for the past two seasons, was originally acquired by the Maple Leafs from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Mason Marchment in February of 2020.  He played a total of eight games for the Maple Leafs and was placed on waivers in January of 2021.  

The 5-foot-9, 175-pound, 25-year-old Malgin has 192 games played in the NHL. All but eight of those games (184) have been with the Florida Panthers. He’s scored 28 goals and 60 points in those games, a 12-goal, 25-point 82-game pace. 

We aren’t sure why Dubas is so enamored with Malgin. At best we see him as an emergency depth piece. Immediately after signing him, the Maple Leafs placed Malgin on the Toronto Marlies’ roster. 

What’s Next

At the end of the day, Dubas stated that he is not done yet. He wants to add a right-side defensive with some physicality. He also stated he has more issues at forward to address. 

Related: Maple Leafs Fans Can Believe in a Matt Murray Bounce Back

Dubas also noted that he felt he had more flexibility left in regard to the salary cap. That statement might be telling. With the team’s acquisitions on day one of free agency, according to CapFriendly the Maple Leafs have about $2 million in salary-cap space. That money could be stretched to $4 million without making any trades. 

We expect that re-signing RFAs Pierre Engvall and Rasmus Sandin would take up a big chunk of the remaining resources. Reading between the lines of those statements would seem to indicate that trades to gain more cap space are in the making. 

Stay Tuned.

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]