The Toronto Maple Leafs have been signing new players during this offseason. When you look at these signings, there’s a similarity among them all. In this post, I’ll share what I believe that similarity is and what I believe this might mean for the team moving into the 2021-22 season.
Signing One: Michael Bunting
Michael Bunting signed a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs last week worth $1.9 million (or $950,000 each season). The 25-year-old left-winger is expected to compete for a regular role – perhaps even in the team’s top-six – during training camp. Although it was a small body of work, in Bunting’s 21 games last season with the Arizona Coyotes, he played pretty well and scored 10 goals and 13 points.
Signing Two: Brennan Menell
Brennan Menell signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Maple Leafs early this week. Last season, Menell played for the KHL’s Minsk Dynamo and scored five goals and 33 assists (for 38 points) in 47 games. The 24-year-old defenseman showed some offensive talent and played big minutes quarterbacking the Dynamo’s power play. He played the most minutes of any KHL player. He’s expected to have a chance to make the Maple Leafs Opening Night roster.
Signing Three: Nick Ritchie
Nick Ritchie signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Maple Leafs on Saturday last week. Ritchie has a lot of NHL experience, and spent the last two seasons with the Boston Bruins and previous seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. The 25-year-old Ritchie is expected to partially replace some of the puck-retrieval tenacity the Maple Leafs lost when Zach Hyman signed a free-agent contract with the Edmonton Oilers. Ritchie might not have Hyman’s scoring ability, but he does have size and is great at screening the goalie, which gives him a chance to shine on the team’s power-play unit. Of Ritchie’s 15 goals last season, five came with the man advantage.
Signing Four: Ojdrej Kase
Ondrej Kase signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with Toronto last Friday. Kase has been battling upper-body injuries, including a concussion. However, he has shown an ability to score in the NHL and had 20 goals with the Ducks during the 2017-18 season. If the 25-year-old Czech player can stay healthy, he could add secondary scoring as a middle-six right-winger.
Signing Five: Brett Seney
Brett Seney signed a one-year, two-way contract last Thursday. Seney has played in just two NHL games over the last two seasons, but he did have a season with the New Jersey Devils in 2018-19 when he played 51 games. He’s expected to play with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and be an emergency depth option for the Maple Leafs.
Signing Six: Carl Dahlstrom
Carl Dahlstrom signed a one-year, two-way contract last Wednesday. Dahlstrom hasn’t yet consistently played in the NHL, but he has an offensive upside. Last season, he was on the Vegas Golden Knights’ taxi squad, but didn’t see any playing time. The 26-year-old Swedish defenseman is expected to compete for a bottom-pair job with the Maple Leafs.
Signing Seven: David Kampf
David Kampf signed a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs last Wednesday. Kampf played in a bottom-six role (with some time because of injuries as the second-line center) with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He scored 12 points and averaged 14:40 TOI. The 26-year-old is expected spend time on the penalty kill this coming season.
Signing Eight: Kurtis Gabriel
Kurtis Gabriel signed a one-year deal with Toronto last Wednesday. Gabriel played only in 11 games last season with the San Jose Sharks and didn’t score. The 28-year-old winger is expected to add physicality to the Maple Leafs line-up next season. He’s known to be an enforcer-type.
Signing Nine: Josh Ho-Sang
Josh Ho-Sang signed a PTO and will attend the Maple Leafs’ training camp. The 25-year-old Hs-Sang played last season with Orebro HK and Linkoping HC of the Swedish Hockey League. He was a first-round draft choice in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but is considered a bit of a long shot to make the Maple Leafs’ roster for the 2021-22 season. However, if he does well in camp, he could sign a two-way contract with the organization.
Signing Ten: Michael Amadio
Michael Amadio signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Maple Leafs last Wednesday. Amadio is a 25-year-old depth center, who played in 25 games last season between the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators. He has an extensive NHL background, having played 173 games in total. He’s not likely to play a major role with the team, but he might play in a bottom-six role if he does make the roster.
What’s the Similarity with These Signings?
I didn’t mention the signing of defenseman Alex Biega, because he’s clearly the outlier in these signings at 33 years of age. He spent last season on the Detroit Red Wings’ taxi squad and he could compete for a bottom-pairing role with the team. However, that he signed a two-way contract means he will likely spend the season with the Marlies.
In these recent signings. it seems as if Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas is following a pattern that differs from last season’s signings. This season’s signings both of depth players for the Marlies and with likely roster players is that most have been around the age of 25 years (or close), and they are just entering their prime.
Last season, the organization concentrated its signings on leadership, and signed Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds has been re-signed. This season, the organization seems to be putting the team’s leadership on the backs of its young players – John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner. They will be expected to lead this team to the next level – or not.
The question is: Can they do it? Maple Leafs’ fans will know how this plans works out in the coming season (and postseason).
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