The Toronto Maple Leafs were certainly noticeable in the offseason.
They re-signed some current players, made some moves in free agency, acquired two new goaltenders and won the 2016 NHL Entry Draft Lottery. Toronto earned the right to the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
On April 13, just a few days after the Maple Leafs season ended, the team re-signed two key pieces in the organization. They agreed to new six-year deals with center Nazem Kadri and defenseman Morgan Rielly. Kadri’s deal was worth $27 million with a cap hit of $4.5 million per season, while Rielly’s contract was for $30 million with a cap hit of $5 million per season.
Then General Manager Lou Lamoriello went out and got some more help for the blue line. Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev signed a one-year contract with a cap hit of $925,000. It is a two-way contract so it’s some more organizational depth since there’s a possibility that Zaitsev could start the season playing with Toronto’s AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. The defenseman can move the puck and has some offensive ability, but his biggest adjustment will be learning to play the North American style of hockey.
On June 20,the Leafs acquired goaltender Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2016 first round draft pick and a 2017 second round draft pick. Toronto needed a replacement for James Reimer, who was traded at the deadline last year. By signing Andersen to a new five-year contract worth $25 million, the organization has made a statement. Andersen has good size and can make the routine save as well as the spectacular one, but Lamoriello and the Leafs are putting a lot of trust in a goalie that has only played 125 career NHL games. One of the biggest knocks on Andersen is that he seems to be injury prone.
On June 24, with the first overall pick in the Draft, surprising no one, the Maple Leafs selected center Auston Matthews. By draft day, Matthews was considered the top prospect and may already had already assumed he would go to Toronto. He signed his three-year entry level contract worth $2,775,000 with a cap hit of $925,000 per season. While it is a two-way contract he’ll start the season with the Leafs. He has a ton of offensive talent and isn’t afraid to go to the net so he should help Toronto’s power play and offense overall. The biggest question is whether he can handle the expectations that come with playing in a hockey market like Toronto.
Perhaps the Leafs’ biggest free agent signing was Matt Martin who they got with a four-year, $10 million contract carrying an annual cap hit of $2.5 million. Martin adds toughness in addition to depth to the their lineup. Defenseman Roman Polak signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract and he’ll bring some physicality and leadership to the blue line.
Lamoriello continued by adding some players for organizational depth. He re-signed goalie Garret Sparks to a one-year, two-way, $575,00 contract. Forwards Josh Leivo and Peter Holland were re-signed to two-year and one-year contracts respectively. Defenseman Jared Holl and Frank Corrado each re-signed one year deals, while Connor Carrick got a new two year, two-way contract worth $2.5 million.
The final piece of the puzzle was to add a backup goalie since the Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier in the offseason. They found it in Jhonas Enroth, who signed a one-year, $750,000 contract in free agency.
The Maple Leafs should be an improved, and somewhat different, team this year with the signings and Matthews entering the lineup.