In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll comment on two additions to the Maple Leafs’ organization. One is not so much an addition but a re-addition, and that’s the re-signing of power forward Wayne Simmonds. The second addition is the hiring of Ryan Hardy from the Chicago Steel of the USHL.
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Both signings are meaningful for the organization. However, the signing of Hardy might in the long run be a significant addition to their organization’s leadership team.
Item One: Wayne Simmonds Re-Signs for Two Years
Wayne Simmonds was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July after his one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Maple Leafs expired. However, that never happened. Instead, The Wayne Train re-signed for two years at a salary-cap hit of $900,000.
Last season Simmonds scored seven goals and two assists (for nine points) in 38 games with the Blue and White. Although it was his first season with the Maple Leafs, it seems likely that it won’t be his final season with his hometown team.
Simmonds started the season well but was slowed with an injury. His statistics might have been more impressive had he not broken his wrist early in the season. Before his injury, he’d been on a goal-scoring roll and had helped lead the power-play unit to an impressive start to the season. It seemed he never returned to his full power after his healing and rehab.
If Simmonds can stay healthy, he’ll bring a physical presence to the lineup and help make the Maple Leafs a tougher team to play against. He’s physical, plays good defense, and isn’t afraid to set up shop in front of the net. Early in the season, he even invited teammates to aim right at him when he was parked in front of the net and then get ready for the potential rebound. He’s a tough player with great hands.
Item Two: Ryan Hardy Becomes Senior Director of Minor League Operations
In a move that might have flown under the radar of many Maple Leafs fans, the organization hired Ryan Hardy as their new Senior Director of Minor League Operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In this new capacity, Hardy becomes the General Manager for both the Maple Leafs’ AHL (the Toronto Marlies) and ECHL (the Newfoundland Growlers) affiliates.
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Hardy has most recently been the general manager of the United States Hockey League’s Chicago Steel, a position he’s held since the start of their 2018-19 season.
After the hiring, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas noted: “Over the last several seasons, I have developed a strong relationship with Ryan as his Chicago Steel team had great success on the ice, as well as success in developing players and staff.”
Dubas then remarked, “As we evaluate how best to maximize the potential of all our prospects, we felt that adding Ryan to our management team and tasking him with managing the Marlies and the hockey side of our relationship with the Newfoundland Growlers would be a great benefit to the organization.”
Hardy’s hiring will split the Marlies’ business operations from their on-ice operations. In an addition move, Laurence Gilman, was promoted upwards. He’d served as the Marlies’ general manager since 2018-19 but was moved up to be the Senior Vice-President of the AHL affiliate. In that capacity, he’ll run the Marlies’ business operations while Hardy runs the show on the ice.
Since the hiring, I’ve looked at a variety of YouTube videos of Hardy addressing the media. My first impressions are that Hardy’s an extremely intelligent hockey thinker. That impression is seconded by his track record with the Steel.
Since Hardy’s tenure as general manager in 2018, he’s led the team to an overall regular-season record of 116-39-8-2 in their 165 games. That’s the most wins for any USHL team during that period. The Steel have also been the USHL’s regular season champions for the last two seasons and won the USHL’s Clark Cup Championship last season.
Personally, Hardy was voted the USHL’s General Manager of the Year in both the 2018-2019 and 2020-21 seasons. During the 2019-20 season, before the USHL was suspended in the wake of the pandemic, the Steel led the league with an .847 winning percentage.
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Hardy has a reputation for being an astute judge of hockey talent, with 10 former players picked as part of the NHL Entry Draft. That’s the highest number drafted from any independent junior team. Hardy’s resume also includes scouting with the Boston Bruins for two years and three years as part of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. He also was an NCAA head coach for Sacred Heart University and Williams College and coached at the junior level with the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The next matter of business for the Maple leaves is deciding which players to protect or expose as part of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft on July 21. I know that’s probably been decided a long time ago, but I’m anxious to see what the organization’s plans might be or whether an agreement might have already been worked out with the Kraken about who they might choose or might avoid.
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Right now, the choices usual suspects might be Alex Kerfoot, Justin Holl, or Travis Dermott. However, in the back of my mind, I have to wonder if some agreements might have been brokered in the background when, for example, the Kraken sought permission to speak with Dave Hakstol, who’s become their new head coach.
We’ll see in just over three weeks.