Despite Bogosian’s Strong Play, It’s Time for Maple Leafs to Move On

The last time we’ve heard anything about Zach Bogosian was the vague tweet from Terry Koshan from the Toronto Sun ten days ago that he’d had contract discussions with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What that means, we don’t know. What we do know is that Bogosian is eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 28.

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It seems he will be testing the free-agent market, as he should. He was seen as a solid third-pairing defenseman last season, and he gave the team good minutes until his injury. Is there a chance that he’ll return? Should the team want him back?

Returning shouldn’t be ruled out; however, he might also be seen as a valuable commodity for a number of teams. In 45 games last season, he scored four assists, blocked 31 shots, and registered 67 hits. Bogosian is solid.

Bogosian Was Brought in Cheaply and Played Better than His Contract

Bogosian was signed to an inexpensive $1 million contract prior to the 2020-21 regular season specifically to play on the third pairing. That’s exactly what he did. During his season, until his injury, he spent most of the season playing alongside Travis Dermott. However, he also spent some time with Mikko Lehtonen, Rasmus Sandin, and Ben Hutton. He was also part of the Leafs penalty kill, where he gave the team good minutes.

Zach Bogosian Buffalo Sabres
Zach Bogosian, when he was with the Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Two seasons ago, after being unceremoniously bought out of his contract by the Buffalo Sabres, Bogosian went on to sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning and played alongside Victor Hedman during the playoffs. To the eyeball test, it seemed like a pretty solid pairing. Except for whatever happened in Buffalo, Bogosian has carried that professional reputation with him over the seasons, and he did nothing to downgrade it during his time with the Blue and White.

By the Numbers: How Did Bogosian Do During the 2020-21 Regular Season

In this post, I’ll again collaborate with Stan Smith to take a look at some advanced statistics as a way to offer secondary insight into Bogosian’s on-ice play and value to the team. Certainly, as we’ve noted before, watching players during games tells us a great deal about how they play. However, using advanced statistics offers another set of insights into Bogosian’s value.

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What do the numbers tell us?  Using six “on-ice” stats from from naturalstattrick, (1) Corsi, (2) Shots, (3) Scoring Chances, (4) High Danger Scoring Chances, (5) Goals, and (6) expected Goals, how did Bogosian fare among the seven Maple Leafs’ defensemen with over 100 minutes played?

Looking at Bogosian’s Defensive Numbers 

Bogosian’s never been noted for his offense in the NHL, so let’s look at his defensive numbers first. This look includes his 5-on-5 analytics averaged per 60-minutes. The numbers then reflect where he ranked in each category among the Maple Leafs’ seven defensemen (Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, Justin Holl, Jake Muzzin, Travis Dermott, Rasmus Sandin, and of course Bogosian).

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)
Bogosian’s Advanced StatisticsAverage Per 60 MinutesRank among Maple Leafs Defensemen
Corsi Against 49.2   2nd
Shots Against27.96th
Scoring Chances Against23.22nd
High Danger Scoring Chances9.45th
Goals Against2.13rd
Expected Goals Against2.04th

Overall defensively, Bogosian ranked fifth out of the seven Maple Leafs’ defensemen; however, he was very close to Muzzin and Brodie who finished tied for fourth.

Looking at Bogosian’s Offensive Numbers 

The chart below shows how Bogosian ranked offensively among the seven Maple Leafs’ defensemen who played at least 100 minutes during the season.

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Bogosian’s Advanced StatisticsAverage Per 60 MinutesRank among Maple Leafs Defensemen
Corsi For 55.02nd
Shots For31.13rd
Scoring Chances For29.74th
High Danger Scoring Chances For12.82nd
Goals For2.76th
Expected Goals For2.55th

Bogosian’s Overall Ranking: By the Numbers

Overall, offensively, Bogosian’s ranking by the numbers was third; and, this ranking was a surprise. He ranked behind Muzzin and Sandin, but ahead of Rielly and Brodie.

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Combining Bogosian’s offensive and his defensive numbers at 5-on-5 play, his overall ranking was third on the team. Bogosian also spent considerable time on the penalty-killing unit, and ranked third for all Maple Leafs’ defensemen on the penalty kill. In summary, the numbers suggest he was better than half of the defensemen the Maple Leafs had last season.

Considerations with Bogosian’s Ranking

One thing to note about Bogosian’s rankings was that, when he played in 5-on-5 situations, he played mostly third-pairing minutes, with bottom-six players and against bottom-six players. That context must be taken into account. 

Even with that consideration, the numbers state that Bogosian did a very good job for the Maple Leafs this past season. He was especially good bang-for-the buck when his salary-cap hit of $1 million is considered.

Should the Maple Leafs Re-sign Bogosian?

So, should the Maple Leafs try to re-sign him? Now that Seattle’s expansion draft is over and we know that the Kraken chose Jared McCann from the team, it also means the defensive corp was untouched. The Maple Leafs now have Brodie, Holl, Dermott, and Timothy Liljegren who can play on the right side next season. 

Bogosian came in and played well for the team. His experience showed both by the eyeball test and in his analytics, which were surprisingly stronger than we had expected. However, with Holl and Dermott signed and Dermott actually re-signed for a nice little raise, it seems time to let Bogosian enter the free agent market. 

Travis Dermott Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott (AP Photo/John Locher)

There’s really no hole to fill and he’ll likely be able to earn more than $1 million somewhere else. We think it’s time to let the big, solid, professional defensemen go, with the Maple Leafs good wishes and thanks for his time and contribution. 

Bogosian was solid in the locker room and on the ice. He played professionally and wasn’t high maintenance. He was value-added to the team. But it’s time the young guys get a chance. 

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The only reason we’d blink on that choice is if he’ll come back at the same salary next season that he played for last season, but we don’t see that happening. At $1 million, he’d be trusted insurance; however, we think it would take more than $1M to get him re-signed. Hence, we believe the team should pass.

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