It’s amazing what a change in management can do for an NHL franchise.
For the last few years the Toronto Maple Leafs have been widely considered to be one of the NHL’s worst-managed organizations. When you make decisions like the Tuukka Rask/Andrew Raycroft trade and the albatross David Clarkson contract it’s easy to see how that stigma could develop. You know it’s gotten really bad when your own fans say that their general manager is worse at his job than a literal potato and, well, they actually make a pretty good point.
That has all changed as of late, however. The Leafs, now guided by an all-star front office ensemble of Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello, Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas, have pulled a complete 180 recently and have quickly become one of the league’s smartest, savviest organizations.
The team only cemented that burgeoning reputation on Sunday when they announced the signing of free agent forward Brad Boyes to a one-year, $700,000 contract, a move that is an absolute steal in more ways than one.
Boyes, 33, is coming off of a very respectable season with the Florida Panthers. He notched 38 points in 78 games, good for fifth on the team, and put up solid possession numbers, at a clip of 51.6 CF%. Now, it’s no secret that Boyes, a former 40-goal scorer with three seasons of 60+ points on his resume, is well past the prime years of his career. That being said, he’s still a player that’s capable of putting up 40 points and slotting into a team’s Top 6, which could very likely happen in Toronto this season.
The fact that the Leafs signed a potential 40-point veteran for barely above league minimum is already total larceny. That Boyes is from Toronto and provides a great feel-good story upon returning to the organization that originally drafted him more than a decade ago is frosting on the cake.
That’s not where the brilliance of this move ends, either. The rebuilding Leafs are a major longshot to make the playoffs this season, something that’s probably obvious to everyone in the organization, but signing Boyes to such a short and cheap deal will give them an added bonus for when the 2016 trade deadline rolls around. As is the team’s plan for a number of other new additions this summer, if Boyes plays well this year he could easily be flipped at the deadline to a contending team in exchange for valuable picks and/or prospects. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
No matter which way you look at it, the Leafs deserve full credit for the Boyes signing. If their front office can continue making clever moves like this one and eventually build a championship roster then the franchise will have gone from a laughingstock to, in the end, getting the last laugh.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL