The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the busier teams during the extended offseason. Going into the offseason, the Leafs knew that they had some key holes to fill and they look to have met their goal. Highlighted by the big signing of T.J. Brodie and the news that went viral with Joe Thornton moving to Toronto, Leafs fans have a lot to be excited for.
Aside from signing T.J. Brodie, Toronto did not make any big splashes in free agency. Instead, they used their limited cap space to fill their roster with cheaper depth players, all of which bring a lot to the table. The recurring theme with the teams signings were mostly players with something to prove or players looking for their last chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Free Agent Signing Grades
Wayne Simmonds - A
It was no secret that the Leafs wanted to get bigger this offseason and with the addition of Wayne Simmonds that plan was confirmed. The key detail about this signing is the money. Simmonds, a 6-time 20+ goal scorer, signed a 1-year contract in Toronto worth $1.5M. Simmonds is coming off of a couple of down-years where he has seemingly declined. It is important to note however that the former Flyers winger has played for 4-different teams in the last 2 seasons and performed admirably on a struggling New Jersey Devils roster. Simmonds has the potential to find his game in Toronto and brings that added physicality that the team has been coveting, all at one cheap cost.
Joe Thornton - A
Some might say that this was about 10 years late but nonetheless, it was a great move for the Leafs. Thornton is obviously not the same player he was 10-15 years ago but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t bring anything to the table. The 41-year old center is nearing the end of his storied career and has just 1 thing left before he is ready to call it a career, a Stanley Cup. In what may be the last year of his career, the former 1st-overall pick chose the Leafs as the team that he believes has the best chance to win the Cup. If that isn’t enough to excite Leaf fans, remember, on a 1-year deal, it’s a 0-risk deal with only upside.
T.J. Brodie - B+
The Leafs biggest signing of the offseason came with the addition of T.J. Brodie. After a year featuring no shortage of rumours about the Leafs being interested in acquiring nearly every star defenceman, Kyle Dubas put every such rumour to rest when Brodie inked a 4-year $20M contract with the Leafs. Brodie is exactly the type of defender that the Leafs have been looking for. The former Calgary Flames blue-liner is a strong and sturdy presence in his own zone and could form a dangerous pairing with Morgan Rielly.
Jimmy Vesey - B
The former Hobey Baker winner is entering his 5th season in the NHL with Toronto being his 3rd team. He spent his first 3-seasons playing for the New York Rangers where he scored 50 goals in 240 games. So far, his best individual season came in 2018-2019 where he recorded 35 points in 81 games. He spent the 2019-2020 season playing in Buffalo. Vesey signed a 1-year, $900,000 contract with the Leafs during the offseason. He has proven to be able to find the back of the net despite limited amounts of ice time and could be a solid offensive piece on Toronto’s 3rd-line.
Zach Bogosian - B
Adding a recent Stanley Cup winner never hurts. After going through his entire NHL career without playing a single playoff game, Bogosian’s patience was rewarded in the bubble. Bogosian signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning after being put on waivers and released by the Buffalo Sabres. The former Atlanta Thrasher proved to be a useful presence for the Lightning as he ended up suiting up for 20 of the team’s playoff games. Bogosian may not get a lot of playing time with the Leafs however, he is a solid presence that could easily step into a bigger role if need be (due to injuries, trades, etc).
Aaron Dell - B-
Goaltending has been an Issue for the San Jose Sharks as of late. In an attempt to try and solve the team’s issues in the crease, they acquired veteran goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Minnesota Wild. With Dubnyck joining the team and Martin Jones being tough to move due to his large contract and no-movement clause, Aaron Dell became the odd man out as the Sharks did not re-sign him once his contract expired this offseason. Dell did not have many offers on the table and as a result, the Leafs were able to snatch the former San Jose Sharks backup for next to nothing. Dell has had success as a backup goaltender. In his first NHL season, He played 20 games posting a .931 SV% and a 2.00 GAA. This season, on a struggling Sharks roster, Dell started 33 games and recorded a .907 SV% and a 3.01 GAA which is decent compared to Jones performance this season and the fact that the Sharks had one of the league’s worst goals allowed per game averages. Dell signed a 1-year deal in Toronto worth just $800,000. The Leafs crease seems to be pretty full at the moment and it is unknown exactly if Dell will make the opening night roster but regardless, goaltending depth in a condensed season never hurts.
The Leafs filled the holes on their team without having to spend a lot of cap space. When you look at the singings that they made, none of them really have any risk. The only downside is that if these players succeed this year they will likely want more money next year and the Leafs may not be able to afford them and will have to fill the holes in their lineup and begin the same process once again. At the end of the day, in a flat cap era, Kyle Dubas did a great job addressing his team’s needs in free agency.