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Maple Leafs land former Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov in NHL free agency

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The Toronto Maple Leafs suddenly have a platoon.

As first reported by The Athletic's Arthur Staple, the Leafs have signed netminder Ilya Samsonov after the Washington Capitals chose not to extend him a qualifying offer.

He will join the Maple Leafs on a one-year deal worth $1.8 million to work in tandem with Toronto's new starter, Matt Murray.

Ilya Samsonov will split goaltending duties with Matt Murray in the Toronto Maple Leafs crease next season. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Ilya Samsonov will split goaltending duties with Matt Murray in the Toronto Maple Leafs crease next season. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Samsonov, a 2015 first-round selection of the Capitals, failed to seamlessly receive the torch from Braden Holtby when the Stanley Cup champion netminder exited Washington two offseasons ago. He was extended under similarly reluctant circumstances last summer before the Capitals chose to move on.

Samsonov's returns diminished in the line with his responsibilities increasing, most recently completing his third season at the NHL level with an .896 save percentage in 44 appearances. Washington's netminding has been one of the league's worst since Samsonov was given the opportunity to carry a heavy load, which motivated the Capitals to pursue Darcy Kuemper in free agency.

It would be a stretch to say that Samsonov's development has been fully squandered, however. This is a prospect with first-round skills and baseline talent, who clearly needs to refine his game. He arrives as a project for the Maple Leafs' new-look goaltending department led by Jon Elkin and Curtis Sanford, and one which could yield sizeable returns. Goaltenders often take time, and the 25-year-old may have been rushed into his previous role.

That being said, it's another bet from Toronto, which doesn't have a sure thing with its starter, either. Murray, too, arrives in Toronto with much to prove and restore after a disappointing tenure with the Ottawa Senators. Toronto's first and second options for this upcoming season have compiled .899 and .902 total save percentages, respectively, over the last three seasons combined.

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