Like the Leafs were during the Entry Draft last week, they remained mostly quiet. They made small, cheap, and mostly reliable updates to their roster, with the exception of one that blew the waters up. They may have lost some depth and leadership, but they did a very good job at replacing all of the missing pieces. After making these signings, it’s clear that Lou and the rest of management see the Shanaplan working and think there are winning opportunities ahead.
Who the Leafs Lost
Brian Boyle – Even though Boyle was only a Leaf for 27 games (including playoffs), his leadership was felt immensely throughout the organization and will be greatly missed. The Leafs acquired Boyle near the trade deadline to signify that they were making a push for the playoffs. Boyle came from Tampa to fill the big hole that Toronto had in their 4th line, and he did the best job that anybody could have. While playing as an excellent 4th line center, he was able to really motivate the team with his determined play and served as a great line mate for not only Martin, but more importantly for rookie Kasperi Kapanen. Boyle signed a 2 year contract with the New Jersey Devils worth an AAV of $2.55 million, which will pay him handsomely as a 4th line center.
Matt Hunwick – After playing with the Leafs for two years and serving as an assistant captain for one of them, Matt Hunwick is no longer with the Buds. While Hunwick served the Leafs well over his two year tenure, he was known to be a bit of a liability defensively, especially when he was playing with Roman Polak. The Hunlack pairing was absolutely awful for the first half of the season, although both Hunwick and Polak found their stride and played consistently good hockey for the last half. Losing Hunwick definitely isn’t that bad for the Leafs, and it in fact opens up a roster spot to be filled by a young defenceman. Hunwick signed a 3 year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins worth an AAV of $2.25 million, which is a raise from his $1 million cap hit during his time with the Leafs.
Seth Griffith – This is a loss to the Marlies and not really any for the Leafs. Griffith is a prolific AHL scorer whose game hasn’t been able to transition to the NHL when given the opportunity. To be fair, the Leafs never gave him that opportunity but when other teams did he didn’t flourish like his stats suggested he would. That being said, there may still be a window for him to become a true NHL player with another team. Griffith, standing a mere 5’9″, really has to bulk up if he wants to make that transition. The Maple Leafs claimed Griffith off of waivers last year, twice, so losing him isn’t a big deal as he was signed for nothing. Griffith signed a one year contract with the Buffalo Sabres worth an AAV of $650,000.
Take another look as Seth Griffith flies into the zone and goes to the backhand to score his second of the night.#MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/DjTT7kIefe
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) March 22, 2017
Who the Leafs Signed
Patrick Marleau – Wow, so the Leafs rebuild is officially over. Patrick Marleau has left the San Jose Sharks and signed with the Leafs. This is an absolutely huge signing for the Leafs, as it’s not one that they had to make at all. Now, their offense is an absolute nightmare for other teams. Regardless of his age, Marleau is still a huge asset and has no problem putting the puck in the net. He scored 27 goals last year at 37 years old, and contrary to his age, he hasn’t lost any of his foot speed. Typically players know they’re too old when they can no longer keep up with the pace of today’s games, but that doesn’t seem to be something Marleau has to worry about. It will be very interesting to see where the Leafs plan to use him in the lineup, but the most likely options are playing on the Matthews line or replacing JVR, if he’s moved at the trade deadline.
The leadership and experience that Marleau brings to the table is priceless. Marleau has only missed a total of 31 games, and has scored 508 goals and 1082 points throughout his career. That is a guy you know you can put your faith in. Marleau and his three year term don’t give the Leafs a wide window to win by any means, but it solidifies that management wants a Cup as soon as they can get one, and they believe that they can pull it off in the next three years. To say the least, this signing is a great reason to get Leafs fans super excited about this upcoming season. It is the biggest and most anticipated free agent signing to Toronto since David Clarkson. Although, we have to hope this goes a lot better than how that whole situation turned out. Marleau signed a three year contract with the Leafs worth an AAV of $6.25 million.
Dominic Moore – Dominic Moore is back! Dominic Moore signed with the Leafs to play the 4th line center role and replace Brian Boyle which he should be able to do very efficiently. Moore is one of the most respected players in the game, by fans and management. For a player that has played on 10 different NHL teams, including the Leafs from ’07-’09, that speaks to his abilities for that many to sing his praises. Moore will be a fantastic replacement for Boyle as he’s 36 years old, so he has lots of experience and leadership to give to the kids, not to mention his considerable offensive abilities. When your 4th line center puts up around 10 goals a year as Moore does, your team has very good forward depth. I remember watching Moore play with the Leafs when I was a kid, and seeing him get a break away without a stick. I hope to see more moments like that out of him in this return to the Leafs. Moore signed a one year contract worth an AAV of $1 million.
Ron Hainsey – Coming off of a Stanley Cup victory, defenceman Ron Hainsey signs with the Leafs. Essentially the Leafs and Penguins swapped Hunwick and Hainsey for each other through free agency. Compared to Hunwick, Hainsey is a few years older and more expensive, however he is also an overall better player, and hopefully not as much of a liability. Hainsey plays a very calm and cautious game, which is a style of play that the Leafs were lacking on their blue line. Hainsey shoots left he played on the right side throughout playoffs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where the Leafs were planning on using him. Although he is a little expensive for what you get out of him and 36 can be quite old, it’s only two years he’s signed for, so there’s no real risk to this signing at all. I personally think it has potential. Hainsey signed a two year contract worth an AAV of $3 million.
Curtis McElhinney – For the sake of not typing that last name all those times, we’re gonna call him Mac. Mac was picked up off waivers last year when the Leafs were in need of a backup goalie. He came in and outperformed expectations. Although his career numbers suggest that he really isn’t an incredible goalie, he’s done everything the Leafs have needed him for, which prompted them to re-sign him. Mac was also the oldest Leaf last year, leading many of his teammates to look up to him as a mentor. He is a great guy and his teammates really like him, and for how cheap he was, there is nothing to be upset with in this deal. Mac signed a two year contract with an AAV of $850,000.
Garret Sparks – Another reason not to be worried about the McElhinney signing, the Leafs also signed Marlies starter Garret Sparks to a deal. Sparks is a reliable goalie who has posted consistent, quality numbers in all leagues he’s played in. Signing Sparks to a cheap deal like this is excellent because there are a few different options with him. He can continue playing solid hockey with the Marlies, be a great call-up if the Leafs ever need him, and if Mac doesn’t end up playing like he did for the Leafs last year, Sparks could even be the fulltime backup for a year or less, whatever they may need. Sparks is the only goalie in Maple Leafs history to earn a shutout in his NHL debut, which was very emotional for him. Sparks signed a two year contract worth an AAV of $675,000.
Colin Greening, Chris Mueller, Vincent LoVerde – These are three very insignificant signings that won’t have any effect on the Leafs. They will all play depth roles for the Marlies and all act as replacement to players that the Marlies have lost. Vincent LoVerde probably being the most notable out of them as he was the captain of the Manchester Monarchs when they won the Calder Cup.
It’s very exciting seeing all the signing and watching the roster starting to be finalized. With mostly cheap, small signings and one huge one in Marleau, I am very satisfied with all of the deals that were made. Management has seen the progress that the franchise has made in the last two years and are really ready to move forward with their plan. Now I, as well as all other Leaf fans, patiently wait for October.