After falling short of his expectations to land a deal during free agency, things did not turn out the way Zach Aston-Reese planned and he was forced to accept a PTO, but has embraced the chance to prove himself. Aston-Reese confirmed that he did have multiple PTO offers on the table at the time he chose to join the Leafs at training camp, which he spoke about with the media on Thursday.
According to reports, his final decision came down to the Oilers and Leafs, where he ultimately chose Toronto. He chose to join the Leafs because they "provided him the best opportunity." A suprising choice of words for a player battling with 8-9 other players for three spots in the lineup, but that could also mean he essentially has a contract in place with the Leafs, as long as he shows what the Leafs already saw in him. Aston-Reese would be a welcomed addition to the Leafs' bottom six, considering the fact that he has some of the best defensive numbers by a forward over the past few seasons. Not only would he fill Ilya Mikheyev
's spot on the penalty kill, but he would also add a much needed physical element, along with Nicolas Aube-Kubel
When asked about the possibility of signing with a different team after his PTO expires, Aston-Reese said, "I'd like to think I'm a loyal guy." As long as the Leafs can find the cap room, expect to see ZAR in the blue and white this season. If they cannot find a spot for him, I don't foresee him having any issues securing a deal elsewhere - especially with an attitude like this:
Aston-Reese has spent the majority of his career as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks at the deadline last season and can likely be had for near the league minimum on a one-year deal. I see no downside for the Leafs here, but a whole lot of potential upside when it comes to addressing multiple needs in their lineup. He checks a lot of boxes and seems like a player that Sheldon Keefe would be happy to have.
WILL ASTON-REESE EARN A CONTRACT AFTER TRAINING CAMP?
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