The Toronto Maple Leafs opened Canada Day back on the first of July by signing Jason Spezza, Nick Shore, Kenny Agostino and Kevin Gravel to NHL deals while also re-signing Martin Marincin.
Okay, the Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t going to sign John Tavares, so it’s important to keep expectations low. The Leafs signed four players and resigned Martin Marincin last season. Of the four players they signed last season, three were forwards and one was a defensemen.
Is Jason Spezza going to score 40 goals next season? Probably not, but it’s pretty cool anyways. These signings are all cheap depth signings and it’ll be a while until we see any big unrestricted free agent signings from this team.
Jason Spezza is someone I’d consider the highlight of this bunch. The 36-year-old finally makes his return to his hometown team. Spezza was picked behind only Ilya Kovalchuk in 2001 and if you’re a Leafs fan, you probably know him for his career with the team who picked him.
Spezza was a star in Ottawa, putting up 90 points twice through his eleven year tenure with the team. He then became a Star, joining Dallas and for three seasons, he continued being a reliable 50+ point guy. These past two seasons, he’s slowed down, recording only 26 and 27 points in his last two seasons.
Spezza took a hometown discount to play here, especially considering he was earning $4 million the season before. It isn’t really crazy to say this could be his last season, entering his 17th season of pro hockey. Spezza is almost guaranteed a spot on the Leafs’ bottom six, playing centre or right wing.
The real test will be to see how his body holds up and if he’s slowed down too much. Spezza will earn $700k this season and if he does not retire, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
Nick Shore is actually someone I wanted the Leafs to sign last season. The Leafs were rumoured to have signed him the day before free agency began and the rumours were correct. As an unrestricted free agent last season, he was coming off of four seasons as a good third or fourth line centre.
His career year involved him scoring 19 points in 64 games, playing in Los Angeles, the nation’s capital as well as Calgary. After no good offers were given to him, he spent this past season in the KHL where he had 16 points in 37 games played. The Leafs are betting that he’s able to perform as a good option for 4C and the 26-year-old will compete for a starting role on the roster.
It might be easier for him with the absence of Zach Hyman, but it’s likely he starts the season as a spare forward for the Leafs in Toronto. Shore is expected to be a solid option for the fourth line and he’ll add some offence as well. Shore, who came over from Calgary, is being paid $750k on a one-way deal, just over the league minimum requirement while he’ll become an unrestricted free agent when the duration of the contract expires. The Maple Leafs themselves have yet to announce it, but its just been widely accepted.
Kenny Agostino is another interesting signing. Another unrestricted free agent the Leafs were rumoured to have signed beforehand, Agostino makes for an interesting depth addition in Toronto. The winger went under the radar for a solid season where he scored 24 points in 63 games between the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens.
He had 10 points in 14 games which he spent in the AHL as well. The left-winger is a solid option for the Maple Leafs’ bottom six and will probably find himself as a regular on the Maple Leafs roster. If not, if he passes through waivers to the AHL, he’ll be a beast down there with the Marlies as he has been with the Laval Rocket prior to.
In 2017, he won AHL MVP with 83 points in 65 games that season. The six-foot forward adds a cheap option to Mike Babcock’s arsenal of guys he’ll play before Auston Matthews. His contract pays him $700k for the next two seasons, meaning he’ll earn league minimum for the duration of the next two years. The Maple Leafs still haven’t announced this deal either, but it has been reported despite that.
Kevin Gravel is a guy who you probably won’t see much of on the Maple Leafs. The 27-year-old defensemen has spent the last four seasons as a solid depth option for the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers. Gravel doesn’t seem like a horrible player, his numbers have proven to be decent.
Still, it’s hard to picture him winning a role on the team, especially considering the amount of players in front of him (Marincin, Borgman, Harpur). Gravel will likely fill in on the Marlies where core pieces like Vincent LoVerde have departed, leaving a questionable hole in their blue-line. Gravel could potentially see some time up with the Leafs, but I don’t think he’ll start with them. Gravel’s contract pays him the league minimum, $700k, for one NHL season.
I have to acknowledge Martin Marincin, but you probably already know about him. Marincin is entering his fifth season in the organization and has spent almost all of it as a solid depth option for the Leafs’ back-end. Although some dislike him and his play can be hard to watch at times, he’s a decent option for the Maple Leafs who are struggling with issues at the blue-line.
He’ll put up some points and be a solid left-defensemen going forward for the Leafs in Toronto. At 27, he’s starting to get older, but the Leafs really needed a cheap option and they got it in Martin Marincin. Speaking of which, he will earn a $700k salary on a one-way deal in Toronto this season.
These are all cheap depth signings as four out of the five signed will make minimum salary this season with Nick Shore earning $50k over that. Only winger Kenny Agostino is signed beyond the 2019-20 season. These are all cost-effective moves, but most of them will make their mark with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.