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Biron believes Samsonov has strong argument to make in arbitration


The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to be going through the arbitration process with starting goaltender Ilya Samsonov, and the result could have major cap implications for the team.

The Maple Leafs already sit over $8 million over the salary cap after signing forwards Ryan Reaves, Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and defenceman John Klingberg this off-season.

They are also trying to set up their cap situation for future years by negotiating extensions with star forwards Auston Matthews and William Nylander.

So, where the arbitrator comes down on Ilya Samsonov's salary for next season will be felt throughout the entire organization.

But a team’s cap situation has no place in the negotiations once the arbitration process begins. Samsonov's hearing was scheduled for Friday morning.

"It's not about the team's [cap situation], it’s about the marketplace," former NHL goaltender and current Buffalo Sabres and MSG studio analyst Martin Biron told TSN150's First Up on Friday. " It's about how a goalie compares to other goaltenders that are in the same situation."

Samsonov and the Maple Leafs are $2.5 million apart in their negotiations. Samsonov filed at $4.9 million while the team filed at $2.4 million.

Biron believes the fact that the process has moved to the arbitration phase means that Samsonov believes he has a good case for it to go in his favour.

"If you go to arbitration, it's because you have somewhat of a case of what you're asking," explained Biron. "So, you should feel confident in your presentation and your agent's way to skew the numbers in your direction. The guys that don't go to arbitration are usually the ones that know they don't have a case or know they underperformed."

Samsonov joined the Maple Leafs last off-season on a one-year, $1.8 million deal as an unrestricted free agent after the Washington Capitals decided not to give him a qualifying offer.

The 26-year-old was intended to share the net with Matt Murray during the 2022-23 campaign, but due to injuries he took the lion's share of the load and went 27-10-5 with a .919 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average in 42 appearances.

He also had a 4-4 record in the playoffs with a .898 save percentage and 3.13 GAA and helped the Maple Leafs get through the first round for the first time since 2004.

"[Samsonov] was top 10 in the NHL when you look at his goals saved above expectations," Biron pointed out. " The goalies around him were [top goaltenders] Andrei Vasilevskiy, Connor Hellebuyck, and Igor Shesterkin. I'm not saying that he'll get $6-8 million [like they do] but these are really solid arguments that he can put forward at the negotiation table."

Based on Samsonov's numbers and success he had last season with the Maple Leafs, Biron believes the amount Samsonov will be awarded will be closer to the number the player filed.

"If I'm Samsonov, [I don't want the Leafs to] come to me at $3.5 or $3.8 million, it starts with a four," said Biron. "That would be considering the Maple Leafs have a cap situation, so I'm being kind here."

If Samsonov is awarded more than $4.53 million, the Maple Leafs have the option to walk away from the deal and let the goaltender become an unrestricted free agent. However, Biron believes the team would be comfortable with a ruling that is around the $4 million mark.

"I think the Leafs would be comfortable at $4 million," said Biron. "If they start getting towards $4.7 or $4.9 million, it becomes more complicated. I think it starts with a four and I think that's what Samsonov [and the Maple Leafs] would be comfortable with."