The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed their final restricted free agent, inking Joey Anderson to a three-year contract. The deal is two-way in the first two years and one-way in the third while carrying an average annual value of $750K at the NHL level. Anderson was acquired recently by Toronto in a trade that saw Andreas Johnsson head to the New Jersey Devils.
Though the Johnsson deal was more about clearing some salary cap room for the Maple Leafs, they targeted Anderson as a potential return because he still possesses some NHL upside. The 22-year-old forward was a third-round pick in 2016 and has played in 52 NHL games with the Devils, scoring eight goals and 13 points in limited minutes. Once the captain of Team USA at the World Juniors, he brings a hard-nosed work ethic to win puck battles in the corner and in front of the net.
While Anderson may not possess high-end puck skills like many of the other Maple Leafs forwards, his playstyle could be a potential replacement for Zach Hyman, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Hyman, a Toronto native, has turned himself from mid-round afterthought with the Florida Panthers to multiple 20-goal scorer with the Maple Leafs despite not having outstanding offensive skill or playmaking ability. Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, he’ll be the success story that the coaching staff can point to when working with Anderson.
The three-year term may come as a bit of a surprise for a player who likely isn’t going to see full-time NHL action this season, but Anderson was obviously willing to take the security of a multi-year deal. Of course, it’s not only Hyman that is on an expiring contract. The Maple Leafs, in their attempt to make the flat cap work around their huge star contracts, have signed five players—Wayne Simmonds, Jimmy Vesey, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza and Travis Boyd—to one-year deals. Unless they can repeat that next offseason, they’ll need players like Anderson to step in at league-minimum costs.