So, the big elephant in the room for the Toronto Maple Leafs has finally been addressed. One of the more forgotten, but still talented rookies on the team during the 2017-2018 season, Connor Brown, was finally re-signed. This was one of the most anticipated moves for the team during this offseason, and some worried that it might not even get done. Would the team sign Polak instead? Would the restricted free agent and the team not be able to come to an agreement? Would he be overpaid? Underpaid? Now that he has signed, all of these questions and more will be answered. But, most importantly, what does this mean for the team and its future?
First, let’s take a look at the specifics of the contract. The Toronto Maple Leafs signed forward Connor Brown to a contract that will last him 3 years and pay him 2.1 million dollars per year. When the deal expires at the end of the 2020-2021 season, he will return to his restricted free agent status and will have arbitration rights. Should he not sign a contract by the end of the 2021-2022 season, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
As for his numbers, Brown played his first full NHL season this past year. Prior to this year, he played seven games in the 2015-2016 season between March 17th and March 29th. Over those seven games, he notched six points (one goal and five assists). Five out of the six points came on power plays, including the goal and four assists. One of his assists came on a shorthanded goal. He ended this stretch of games with a -2 rating and 11 shots.
Brown’s first full NHL season came last year, for the 2016-2017 campaign. He played in all 82 games, averaging 16:12 on the ice per game, and shooting at least 10 times in every game. In those 82 games, the rookie scored 20 goals and had 16 assists, for a total of 36 points. He was one of five players to reach 20 goals, and one of nine to reach 10. Only seven players had more points than him. Two of his goals came on the power play, and four of his assists did the same for a total of six power play points. His only shorthanded point came in the form of a goal, and he scored four game-winning goals, including the first of his NHL career. This season definitely showed that, while sometimes overshadowed by stars like Auston Matthews and William Nylander, Brown is a reliable forward that puts up points and would be valuable for the Maple Leafs in the years to come.
What does this signing mean for the team’s future?
When the Leafs’ “youth” is mentioned, most people think of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner. Matthews and Marner are signed through the 2019-2020 season, while Nylander’s contract expires one season earlier, at the end of the 2018-2019 season. Other younger players are on more long-term contracts, such as Morgan Rielly, who becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022-2023 season, and Zach Hyman, who becomes a UFA at the end of the 2021-2022 season. All of these younger players are joined by Leafs veterans like Leo Komarov and Tyler Bozak, both signed through 2018-2019. Additionally, some new, but experienced faces will join the squad when this October rolls around, including Ron Hainsey, signed through 2019-2020, and Patrick Marleau, signed through 2020-2021. Now, this may seem like just a bunch of numbers, but they mean something.
For the most part, the Leafs roster will stay intact for at least the next two seasons. After the Brown extension was finished, Toronto was left with no unsigned players, finally. Now, it’s time to work. This past year, the “underdog” team made the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-2013 season, but that year was shortened by a lockout. This was the first time that fans of The Six’s team would get to see playoff hockey after a full NHL season since the 2003-2004 campaign. The players are hungry, the fans are hungry, and even opposing teams can’t wait to see what the Leafs have in store over the next few years. They seem to have something good going for them for the first time in a while.
In fact, the Leafs have multiple good things going for them. To make the situation even better, they have at least two seasons with these good things to make some progress, and… you know, maybe they can finally do that thing that they haven’t done since 1967. So, with that, good luck to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Your future is bright.
What do you think about the Connor Brown signing? Does it mean promising things for the Leafs like we think it does? Are the Toronto Maple Leafs… actually good? Let us know what you think by tweeting us: @PuckItUpBlog