The signing of Adam Gaudette took many Maple Leafs fans by surprise.
At a time when many were looking to sign big fish free agents, Toronto went out and secured a couple of small fish instead. And actually, that wasn’t a bad thing.
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas always has a way of sneaking around and not getting the most interesting player available. Eventually, after the dust settles in free agency, that’s when Toronto signs a player no one had thought of.
This summer, Jarnkrok Street was that addition. However, it might be safe to say that every addition made was one out of left field. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was probably the most intriguing signing of all, but so were the insertions of Victor Mete and Jordie Benn.
However, we cannot forget Gaudette.
The 25-year-old center parted ways last season with both the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators. He arrived in Canada’s capital in late November after being called off exemptions by Senators. Spending the rest of the season with Ottawa, Gaudette finished with 12 points in 50 games.
Although he wasn’t the best total in the NHL, he had a great season with Team USA at the World Championship once his season concluded. In ten games, the 25-year-old had six goals and two assists for eight points, a far different total than he had with the Senators.
At six-foot-one, Guadette won’t bring many offensive or defensive advantages. He’s a player who spent most of last year at the center of the fourth row in Ottawa and you’re likely to expect the same in Toronto. Gaudette is still pretty young at 25, so there might be some things the Maple Leafs can do to help him develop his game a little bit more.
However, it’s not like he hasn’t shown some potential advantage before. In the 2019-20 season, before the pandemic ruined everything, Gaudette was on a hot streak scoring 33 points in 59 games with Vancouver.
While it might be something unique, I still wouldn’t rule it out. Every team he’s been on at the NHL level has struggled at one point or another and he hasn’t been on a legitimate contender.
The 25-year-old thrives on rushing, something Toronto lacked for part of last season. Gaudette is able to get up off the ice quite quickly in transition, and can sometimes use her hands to get around defenders. He wouldn’t say he’s the prettiest skater out there, but he’s capable of pushing the limits of himself and being a fast player.
Gaudette is also usually wide open in the slot, which is where he has scored many of his goals.
But the biggest question mark isn’t whether he can produce on this Maple Leafs team, but whether he’ll make the opening-night training camp squad or not.
At the moment, Toronto is over the cap by $1,493,116, which means they’ll probably need to send two to three players to comply. It’s also worth remembering that Rasmus Sandin is yet to be signed, and there may be more that need to be shipped after that number arrives.
Gaudette will have to work incredibly hard if she wants a spot on the opening night roster, but I think there’s a scenario where she gets it.
The 25-year-old is a right-handed shooting center Toronto might need during games. Moving down the lineup, each of his current three center backs shoots left, so Gaudette could add some value there. The downside to that is the fact that he hasn’t had a higher than 50% matchup percentage through a season in his career.
In reality, though, a lot of this depends on which issue Sandin appears in. Obviously, there could be a trade that comes soon after, or even sooner, but either way some players will be given up. Gaudette could be one of them.
Although that’s not quite the worst thing in the world, who knows if the 25-year-old even clears waivers. It’s been said before that teams like to claim Maple Leafs early on for the hell of it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.
However, if Gaudette can put up a strong showing in Toronto training camp, who knows where he might end up on opening night. He may not even have to approve waivers.
(Salary info via PuckPedia.com and chart via Evolving-Hockey.com)
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