Generally, we use this profile series for players that are about to hit the open market or for restricted free agents with a notable contract that needs to be negotiated. However, there is a free agent that is currently generating a lot of interest in undrafted goaltender Mack Guzda.
Last season, the OHL was the one major junior league that didn’t play at all and while some of their players were able to catch on with teams overseas, many, including Guzda, didn’t. He was second in the OHL in games played in 2019-20 but it wasn’t enough to be drafted despite being a starter the season before as well. That, coupled with not playing last season, largely had him off the radar heading into 2021-22.
That changed pretty quickly once this season got underway. He got off to a strong start with Owen Sound but with the Attack having another capable netminder in Nick Chenard and wanting to clear an overage slot, he was flipped to Barrie. Since joining the Colts, he has been one of the top goalies in the league, earning Goaltender of the Month honors for December and January, garnering the attention of several NHL teams in the process.
2021-22: 25 GP, 16-7-1 record, 2.61 GAA, .920 SV%, 2 SO
OHL Career: 155 GP, 74-52-18 record, 3.22 GAA, .894 SV%, 7 SO
Last weekend, Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek reported in a 32 Thoughts segment (video link) that there are at least seven teams showing interest in the 21-year-old. The Maple Leafs were classified as an aggressive suitor with Guzda mentioning to TSN’s Mark Masters that he recently met with them. Marek indicated that the Predators, Penguins, and Rangers are perceived to be frontrunners for the Tennessee native while the Hurricanes, Islanders, and Ducks have also shown interest in Guzda. Other teams could get into the mix as well; these are just the ones that have already been linked to him.
Guzda will need to evaluate which organization provides the best way to playing time at the AHL level to start and who could have an NHL opening a few years from now; it’s quite unlikely that an undrafted junior goalie would push for NHL minutes within the first couple of seasons of his contract.
With that many teams interested in him, Guzda should be able to land an entry-level contract worth the maximum before bonuses, one that would carry an AAV of $925K, 10% of which would be in the form of a signing bonus. Significant performance incentives wouldn’t be likely, especially with goaltenders typically having a longer development curve than skaters.
At this point, the bigger question will be the timing of the contract. If he signs now, he’d burn the first year of the contract immediately, allowing him to get to restricted free agency a year earlier. Of course, at that time, he’s likely still in the minors so the allure of trying to get to bigger money quicker like some prospects do doesn’t necessarily apply to him. Accordingly, he could wait until March to sign when future contracts could be signed, permitting him to sign for three years with the first season being 2022-23. That’s likely the preferred option for his suitors.
Whether it’s over the next few weeks or next month when contracts for next season can be signed, it appears Guzda will be landing an NHL deal somewhere, a nice reward after being passed up in the draft multiple times.