The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced the signing of forward Zach Aston-Reese to a one-year contract. The Athletic’s James Mirtle adds that the deal is worth $840,630 exactly. Aston-Reese had been in camp with Toronto on a PTO, but after a strong preseason effort, the defensive-minded winger has not only earned himself a contract, but a one-way deal that is $90K above the league minimum. The signing was first reported by the Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli.
Brining in the experienced Aston-Reese on a PTO earlier this summer seemed like a no-brainer for Toronto, who is up against the cap ceiling and searching for talented, veteran depth to round out their roster. With the signing, Toronto is just over $2.98MM above the salary cap ceiling, but are expected to add defenseman Carl Dahlstrom to season-opening LTIR, and have already placed forwards Kyle Clifford, Adam Gaudette and Wayne Simmonds as well as defenseman Victor Mete on waivers earlier today. While the signing only adds to their complex salary cap situation, the organization has made a habit under Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas of utilizing every last dollar to maximize their roster.
For Aston-Reese, the deal represents good value considering what his offseason looked like. The career-Pittsburgh Penguin was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks last March in the Rickard Rakell trade, but was allowed to walk as a UFA at the conclusion of last season. Many had forecasted Aston-Reese for a guaranteed NHL contract, presumably coming on day one of free agency. Instead, nearly two months had gone by without the winger generating much interested, at least that was known. Toronto, who was known to be looking for affordable, gritty two-way depth in the wake of Jason Spezza’s departure, seemed like a perfect match, and the club invited him to camp on a PTO in early September.
Clearly, Aston-Reese’s experience and training camp performance impressed Toronto, who rewarded him with a one-way contract. Having only been signed to a PTO until now, Aston-Reese had been free to sign with any team, not just Toronto. But, the chance to join an exciting Maple Leafs roster and use his talent and playoff experience as the organization looks to take the next step should be an exciting opportunity beyond what the contract says.