The Leafs made a significant splash as NHL free agency opened with a few solid free-agent depth signings and one big NHL trade. Here are my grades for each Leafs deadline move!
Jason Spezza – UFA, $700k (league minimum): A
This may have been the biggest surprise signing for the Leafs, but hometown Spezza takes a pay cut to return and win with the Maple Leafs. The signing is an A because it addresses the Leafs roster need at depth center and also comes in on a league minimum deal of $700k.
Spezza’s right-handed faceoff skills are also attractive to the Leafs on special teams and to close out games. As far as casting goes, Spezza stacks up against Nick Shore, Nic Petan, Nazem Kadri, and Frederick Gauthier for the 3rd/4th line center position.
Michael Hutchinson – one-year extension, $700k: C+
It’s a move that may be needed but isn’t very exciting. Hutchinson, who I previously broke down, will likely push Garret Sparks to the periphery and likely out of the franchise. Is he much of an upgrade on Sparks? Marginally, yes, but nothing crazy. He seems more controlled in the net and has NHL starting experience.
Martin Marincin – one-year extension, $700k: D-
An annoying signing, but Mike Babcock needed to have at least one of “his” players back this season, and Marincin is just that. He’s a depth player who will likely start the season as the Leafs 7th/8th defenseman, if not on the Marlies roster. Organizational depth is never a bad thing, but he scares me on the ice.
Kevin Gravel – UFA signing, $700k: C+
A bit of an unknown player to most of Leafs Nation (myself included), is a left-shot 27-year-old defenseman who will challenge for the bottom pairing alongside the likes of Marincin and Holl. He had just three points last season with the Oilers but did average 14:43 TOI. He does add size at 6’4″ tall and 211lbs, which is a dimension the Leafs needed to add.
Kenny Agostino – UFA signing, 2-year $700k per year: B
The official first signing on July 1st and the first leaked signee the night before, Kenny Agostino provides NHL depth on either wing and solid goalscoring ability with limited minutes. He scored six goals and added 18 assists last season, splitting time between Montreal and New Jersey while averaging just 12:55 TOI.
With Connor Brown moved out and Hyman out rehabbing to start the season, Agostino could be a top-6 player alongside Tavares. Versatility and effectiveness make this a solid signing for the Leafs.
Leafs trade Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, and Michael Carcone to Ottawa for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk, and Columbus’ third-round pick next summer.
Cody Ceci – A-
The scapegoat in an awful Ottawa team, Cody Ceci not only gets returned to Toronto but signs a one-year cap hit of $4.5 million deal. This is $500k less than what he was in line to make with his arbitration rights, but in order to get out of Ottawa and then showcase his skills on a good, offensive team Ceci’s camp took the salary hit.
Dubas constantly said that Zaitsev would be moved if it suited the Leafs and if a right-shot D was returned. Not only did Dubas get what he wanted, but he also got out from under 5 years of Zaitsev’s inflated contract value. Ceci should improve on Toronto in a non-top pairing and in a better system.
Ben Harpur: C
More of a physical presence than an all-around defender, Harpur adds more size and defensive depth to the Leafs organization. He’s another value player, currently earning $775k and is an RFA after next season. As mentioned, Harpur adds size coming in at 6’6″ and 220lbs, and will likely factor into the battle for the bottom pairing.
Aaron Luchuk: C+
A skilled center, just 22-years-old, and a proficiency to score in the OHL and ECHL when he played there, Luchuk is one for the Marlies. I really like this addition to the trade especially with Carcone going the other way. The Leafs are solid on winger depth but needed Marlies center depth, this trade achieves this.