Day one of the free agent period is pretty well in the bag, and Leafs nation appears to have collectively forgotten what was said at the end of the season.
“Well, obviously we’re gonna look after that in the off season, I can promise you that. There will be none of that foolin around going on. We’re a group right now, obviously, we don’t have a lot of that (toughness) right now. We’ll get that fixed.” – Mike Babcock 03/19/2016
Mike Babcock promised that the leafs would bring in tough players to protect our young stars, and that is exactly what Uncle Lou and Co. have done by signing Matt Martin. If Babcock, one of the best NHL coaches around, believes that the leafs need some grit present on the team, you can’t really question that. This isn’t the Brian Burke/Dave Nonis “5 minute fighters” style of toughness either. This is bringing in a player who will battle for the puck, throw his weight around, and make some of the dirty elements around the league really think about whether it’s worth the amount of punishment to take a run at one of our guys for 10+ minutes a night at least.
That being said, Matt Martin is no slouch as player either. No he doesn’t put up many points, but no team in the NHL has 4 lines of 50+ point guys. Martin brings a very good defensive mindset to any line he may play with, and should be able to offset some of the expected “rookie” mistakes that come when you have a team full of kids under 25. He’s got good shot suppression numbers, is consistently near the top of the league in hits, and raised his line’s CorsiFor by about 5% give or take. At only $2.5 million for 4 years, this deal won’t hamper the team when it comes time to start extending players coming off of entry-level deals. On top of all that, this gives the Leafs another player they can expose in the entry draft, and should Martin be a player that is claimed, all these complaints about a 4 year term will be a moot point.
All in all, on day 1 of Free Agent Frenzy, the leafs did well to stay clear of all the over-priced role players, and sign a reasonable deal that helps keep our rookies safe, without sacrificing a whole line to fighter types.