When the Toronto Maple Leafs recently released their training camp roster for the qualification round, there was a notable absence—at least in terms of depth players. Pontus Aberg, who had been one of the team’s injury recalls during the season, was not found on the list. Perhaps now we know why, as Aberg has signed a one-year contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL. Earlier this spring there were reports that Aberg had been offered a deal, though it wasn’t clear at that point which organization was trying to bring him overseas.
Though he spent only five games in a Maple Leafs sweater this season, the 26-year old Aberg dominated at the minor league level once again. Scoring 20 goals and 44 points in 55 games for the Toronto Marlies, it was easy to expect his name as a reserve option for the upcoming tournament. Instead, the two sides will part ways for now with Aberg heading overseas to try and get his career back on track.
Originally selected 37th overall by the Nashville Predators, Aberg was once a promising young forward with oodles of offensive potential. His presence was felt in the 2016-17 playoffs when he stepped into a larger role on the injury-riddled Predators and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately, his NHL playing time has wavered ever since, with only 132 regular season games under his belt to this point.
The Maple Leafs can retain Aberg’s rights temporarily by issuing him a qualifying offer this summer, but it’s hard to know if he will ever get another legitimate chance in the NHL.