Maple Leafs Offer Petan a New Chance

The Toronto Maple Leafs were pretty quiet on Feb. 25, the NHL trade deadline date. However, they did make one trade, picking up left winger Nic Petan from the Winnipeg Jets for first-year Swedish fourth-liner Par Lindholm. They also called up Trevor Moore from the Toronto Marlies. Both Petan and Moore are left wingers, and both come hoping to breathe new life into the team’s stagnant fourth line.

After averaging a point-a-game last season in the AHL, Petan had little impact this season with the Jets. With his ice time usurped by youngsters Jack Roslovic, Brendan Lemieux and Mason Appleton, Petan was exiled to the press box most of the season. The Jets would have sent him to the minors, but they simply wouldn’t risk it. He would have had to clear waivers, and there was a good chance another team would have been picked him up. With this trade, at least the Jets got something in return.

Nic Petan
Nic Petan (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

That something was Lindholm. Lindholm was low-maintenance, decent on the penalty kill and a quality person. But, he’d given the Maple Leafs next to nothing offensively. With his expiring contract, as an unrestricted free agent he was likely to leave the team anyway. So, like the Jets, the Maple Leafs at least got something in return.

What Did the Maple Leafs Get in Petan?

The Jets drafted the Delta, British Columbia native Petan 43rd overall in the second round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. That same draft, the Maple Leafs picked Frederik Gauthier in the first round and Andreas Johnsson in the seventh.

Petan was a prolific scorer in junior with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and with Team Canada at the World Juniors, and he carried that scoring into the AHL. However, his opportunities were limited with the Jets. Still, he has 108 games of NHL experience, with 23 points.

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In Petan, the Maple Leafs get a speedy, young (23 years old), playmaking forward who is known as a good passer and who was a point-per-game AHL player. He impressed the Jets early, and even made their opening day roster in 2015 after a strong training camp. However, Dobber Prospects noted, “The problem is, the Jets are very deep with young talent and much of that talent has very high upside. Especially in terms of offense. On many teams, Petan would be a cut above. On this team, he’s second fiddle to the likes of Mark Scheifele, Nik Ehlers, and a slew of veterans in their prime. Don’t be discouraged by the lack of production. Petan will get there, it will just take a couple of years.”

That’s been Petan’s problem. With the Jets, he’s been behind great players in their primes. And, because his contract hasn’t allowed him AHL time, he’s languished in the press box (only two assists in 13 games). Last season with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL, he scored 15 goals and 37 assists in 52 games.

What Might Petan’s Future Be With the Maple Leafs?

As noted, Petan is a left winger, but also plays center. Perhaps, the Maple Leafs will cast him as their fourth-line left winger alongside Moore. However, his history at center allows him to challenge for Gauthier’s job as the fourth-line center. In that possibility, the Maple Leafs exchange a slower Gauthier (who barely scores) for a smaller, swifter skater with a history of scoring.

With Petan, the Maple Leafs add another depth winger (they’ve already had good luck with Tyler Ennis) with an offensive upside neither Lindholm nor Gauthier has shown. Lindholm was good on the penalty kill, but had just one goal and 12 points in 61 games in his rookie NHL season. Gauthier shows little offensively or defensively. He’s huge and was a first-round draft pick, but so far he hasn’t played that well in the NHL.

Nic Petan – Winnipeg Jets vs Philadelphia Flyers – November 17, 2016 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Petan works out well with the Maple Leafs, he’s on an expiring contract and will become a restricted free agent after the season. That gives the team contract control they lacked with Lindholm, and Petan’s salary expectations (his contract this season is $874,125) are a better match for the Leafs’ budget with next season’s salary cap crunch. The Maple Leafs absolutely must sign cheap contracts to balance the mega contracts they’ve already signed.

Calling Moore up from the Marlies hints that he will become the team’s fourth-line left winger for now, but look for Petan to see ice time this season. Perhaps coach Mike Babcock will play Moore and Petan together. If so, the Leafs will add skill to their fourth line, which had been offensively stagnant most of the season.

What Did Kyle Dubas Have to Say About the Trade?

When asked about the trade, Kyle Dubas noted, “I think Nic … is someone where the opportunity just hasn’t worked out for him in Winnipeg. Par was an unrestricted free agent coming up, so Petan has some team control left on him. He is a player that fits the way we want to play. He’s got a lot of talent. We just feel like we need to bring him in and work with him, give him an opportunity, and have him work with our development people to help maximize his potential. But he’s competitive. He can play center and wing. He is versatile that way. We are excited to get him and bring him in.”

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Finally, when Dubas was asked if Petan’s future was with the Maple Leafs or the Marlies, he didn’t hesitate: “He is going to be a Leaf.”