After hitting the waiver wire, Leafs goalie Petr Mrázek is ready to hit the reset button on his play
It came a shock to Maple Leafs goalie Petr Mrázek — in his 10th year in the NHL — to be put on waivers.
Yet there he was in no man’s land on Monday, waiting for 2 p.m. to pass, to find out if he was still a Maple Leaf.
“It’s obviously different than being traded,” said Mrázek. “You never know what was going to happen. Your hockey career can change in a minute and you can go a different team.”
“But I’m happy I’m here. I can show what I can do.”
For any veteran, the most embarrassing thing wasn’t going on waivers. It was clearing them.
On the last day for teams looking to improve themselves for the playoffs at the cost of prospects and draft picks, no team chose the relatively cheaper option – just $3,375 (U.S.) — of simply claiming the Maple Leafs goalie.
“It never feels good but now it’s over,” said Mrázek. “We move on. It’s like a reset button and let’s get going.”
If Mrázek’s salary cap number of $3.8 million for the two years after this didn’t make him waiver-proof, then his body of work for the Maple Leafs so far this season did: Significant time missed twice due a wonky groin, plus a 3.48 goals-against average and .866 save percentage. Those numbers are among the worst in the league, and well below his career numbers (2.64, .909).
The idea of “resetting” Mrázek was coach Sheldon Keefe’s main theme after practice on Tuesday.
“For an established NHL player to go on waivers is itself as a shock and then you clear waivers, it should be even more of a shock, that you haven’t been nearly good enough,” said Keefe. “My message to him is that it should be a full reset. We need him to be better. We believe he is a much better goalie, and he’s proven that in his time the NHL.
“That’s why we went out and signed him this summer. That’s why he got the deal that he got because he earned that, he was worthy of it because of his time in the NHL. He’s capable of much better. We do believe in him and it’s time for him to get to working and deliver on it.”
With Jack Campbell (ribs) remaining out, the Leafs have Mrázek and relative unknown Erik Källgren to choose from to play Wednesday’s “Next Generation” game against the New Jersey Devils. Mrázek had black pads made to go with the one-off black jerseys with blue trim.
“The jersey looks good,” said Mrázek. “It doesn’t matter what you have on just it’s all about stopping the pucks.”
Källgren has played the last three games. With games coming back-to-back Saturday in Montreal and Sunday at home to Florida, one goalie will likely play twice, the other once. Keefe wasn’t sure in which order they’d play.
“We haven’t decided on that yet,” said Keefe. “Petr has been through quite a bit the last couple of days. You can imagine what that would be like for him emotionally. But I liked what I saw from him practice today. But at the same time, we’ve got a guy in Källgren that has done a good job for us. He came in at a time when we needed saves and we needed a goalie to give our team confidence. He has done that for us, so that we can’t overlook that.”
But whoever is in net will have the benefit of newly acquired Mark Giordano playing in front of him. The former Norris Trophy winner will wear No. 55, paired with Timothy Liljegren — at least to start his Leafs NHL career.
Giordano and forward Colin Blackwell — who will wear No. 11 and play on the fourth line — practised with the Leafs for the first time since the Sunday trade with the Seattle Kraken.
“I haven’t been really nervous for a practice in a long time, but I was anxious to get out there today and happy to get that one under my belt before the game (Wednesday),” said Giordano.