The Toronto Maple Leafs have activated goaltender Joseph Woll off of long-term injured reserve. He’s missed the team’s last 35 games, sitting out since December 7th with an ankle injury. Toronto also loaned defenseman Maxime Lajoie to the minor leagues, in order to make space for Woll’s return.
Woll is expected to start for Toronto when they take on the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. He’s now one of three goalies on the Leafs’ active roster, alongside Martin Jones and Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov is expected to back up Woll on Thursday, though the Leafs are planning to continue carrying three goaltenders for the foreseeable future, head coach Sheldon Keefe shares.
This list could grow quickly, though, as veteran netminder Matt Murray is progressing from bilateral hip surgery, and rookie Dennis Hildeby is continuing to post strong numbers in the minor leagues. While Murray hasn’t played any games this season, and Hildeby has yet to make his NHL debut, both goalies could quickly challenge the security of Toronto’s crease.
But a goalie race could be good for the Maple Leafs, who boast impressive young talents in Woll and Hildeby, serviceable veterans in Samsonov and Murray, and a reliable pro in 34-year-old Jones. It’s Woll that seemingly has a leg up on his competition, recording an impressive eight wins and .916 save percentage in the 15 games he’s been healthy for this season. He and Jones are the only Leafs goalies carrying a save percentage above .900 this season, though Murray posted a .903 in 26 games last year. He’s recovering from a similar surgery to Jesse Puljujarvi, who is still fighting his way back into an everyday NHL role. Answering how quickly Woll can return to form after two months out, and how limited Murray will be after intense surgery, will go far in helping Toronto identify the goalie that will lead them into the postseason.