Bertuzzi, Domi aside, here are 3 of the Leafs' most impactful free agent signings over the past 5 seasons
BY DEAN CHAUDHRY JULY 31, 2023 (9:27 PM)
While the additions of Bertuzzi and Domi were grand in terms of this summer's free agent crop, what was available and what type of cap space the Leafs had to work with. We don't yet know what sort of an impact these moves will have on the roster, but it got us thinking about some of the more significant deals the Leafs have signed in recent years. Let's take a look back at some of the more impactful moves from the last half decade or so that have helped shape the Leafs that finally helped get them over their first round hump.
1) John Tavares
This one goes without saying, but Tavares signing with his boyhood team made headlines not just because of the infamous picture of a young Tavares napping in Toronto gear but because he was the biggest free agent in recent memory and he chose the Leafs over a handful of other teams - some offering a lot more money.
When Steven Stamkos chose to stay in Tampa Bay in the summer of 2016 - after all the rumours that had him linked to Toronto - it made many believe that Toronto no longer held that storied, iconic, and legendary tag that they once paraded around with. They had become the butt of many jokes over the years and that was the narrative around the team at the time - that they were choke artists and nobody wanred to play there. Tavares changed all of that in a hurry and transformed the Leafs offense from potent to atomic.
He has given the team a lethal 1-2 option down the middle with Auston Matthews, with the captain racking up 155 goals and 354 points in 360 games across 5 seasons, and has 11 goals and 22 points in 31 post-season games. Not to mention he has two 35+ goal and 80+ point seasons under his belt.
2) Ilya Samsonov
The goaltending carousel has been an interesting trend in Toronto for the last 4-5 years as there seems to be a brand new tandem on a yearly basis. Trying to fit a solid team under the stagnant cap and 3 core players making 10+ million is difficult but the Leafs have managed to roll with some solid tandems over the years.
Samsonov was a prolific signing primarily because he was a former 1st round pick and was brought in on a cheap prove-it-deal after falling out of favour in Washington. The bigger fish seemed to have been Matt Murray but the oft-injured goaltender was not able to stake his claim, which allowed Samsonov to thrive and take over as the true number 1.
The young goaltender had a career season this year with a career-high 40 starts, 27 wins, a 2.33 G.A.A, and a .919 SV%. He was instrumental in their first round matchup against Tampa Bay but unfortunately was downed by an injury in the second round. After filing for arbitration, Samsonov enters another season with a 1-year deal but this time with a lot less nerves and a lot more expectations to either replicate his 2022-23 season or better it.
3) T.J. Brodie
The 33-year-old veteran defenseman has recently found him name swirling trade rumours and some even claiming he may be bought out. Ironically enough, Brodie could easily be categorized as the team's best defenseman and is entering the final year of a very friendly contract.
Not known for his scoring, Brodie has still been able to sprinkle in some tertiary help from the back-end with 56 points in 196 games, including 28 in 2021-22. He did have back-to-back seasons with 41+ points in Calgary but his usage has changed over the years and he has become a very dependable rock as the last line of defense.
He has averaged 21:21 TOI, blocked 301 shots, and finished 134 checks along the way with a CF% of 48.4 and a FF% of 48.8. In 25 post-season games he has averaged 22:58 TOI, has 52 blocked shots, and 35 checks and is a reliable defender whenever the Leafs need a shutdown pairing on the ice.