Leafs sign Josh Leivo to two-year contract

Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

The ink hasn’t finished drying off on Auston Matthews’ entry-level contract, but that hasn’t stopped Lou Lamoriello and pals from getting the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed on another set of paper. The Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to terms with forward Josh Leivo this afternoon, signing him to a two-year deal.

The 23-year-old Leivo is an interesting one, in the sense that he followed up a year where things seemed to be going pretty poorly for him with a near point-per-game season with the Toronto Marlies in 2015/16. In 51 games, Leivo scored 17 goals and added 31 assists for 48 points, which earned him a spot on the North Division team at the AHL All-Star game this season. 

One thing that leaves me questioning the value of his production is the quality of his linemates. Nearly all of his appearances with the Marlies this season involved having one of Mark Arcobello or William Nylander as his centre, and his rotating cast of wingers often included the likes of Richard Panik, Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic, or Zach Hyman.

On the other hand, though, his numbers do appear to have a level of sustainability to them. His shooting percentage of 10.8% over 158 shots this year is below his AHL career average of 11.7%, and 24 of those 31 assists (77%) were primary helpers. The ratio becomes even more lopsided at even strength (86%), but the fact that nearly a third of his points came on the powerplay might be a bit concerning to people.

Leivo also played twelve games with the big club this year, giving him 28 over the course of his 3-year NHL career. In those dozen appearances, he scored five goals.

 2010-11  Sudbury Wolves  OHL 64 13 17 30 37 -10 12.3
 2011-12  Sudbury Wolves  OHL 66 32 41 73 61 2 29.02
 2012-13 Sudbury / Kitchener  OHL 63 29 44 73 52 20 30.41
2013-14  Toronto Marlies  AHL 59 23 19 42 27 6 27.44
2014-15  Toronto Marlies  AHL 51 11 21 32 44 12 24.18
2015-16  Toronto Marlies  AHL 51 17 31 48 14 14 36.27

 2013-14  Toronto Maple Leafs 9 1 0 1 4 -1 1.81 -6.82
 2014-15  Toronto Maple Leafs 7 1 1 2 0 0 0.89 -0.18
 2015-16  Toronto Maple Leafs 12 5 0 5 6 2 1.63 -6.55

Leivo has drawn a lot of comparisons to Joffrey Lupul, and not just because he’s a slightly tan Canadian kid who shoots right, plays both wings, is about 6’2 and 200lbs, and has the initials JL. Leivo is unafraid of going into chippy areas to get the puck on his stick and is has both a heavy wrist shot and a slippery smooth pass. Like Lupul, he could serve to improve his defensive game and it would be nice to see him become more of an explosive skater. 

He also comes significantly cheaper than the man he might one day replace. The native of Innisfil will make $575,000 this year, and $650,000 in 2017/18, for a cap hit of $612,500. It might be a little presumptuous to get too attached to him, though, given the long list of roster-ready wingers and the fact that he isn’t exempt from waivers. He also isn’t exempt from the 2017 Expansion Draft, meaning the Leafs will have to protect him if they don’t want to risk losing him to Las Vegas.

Leivo was originally drafted by the Leafs in the third round of the 2011 Entry Draft.

  • CMpuck

    Good news for Leivo! I always liked him and think he has a legit chance in NHL as a 2-3 liner, given the chance.
    The contract is likely to be 2-way but that’s fine. He needs a sustained chance with the Leafs to make a lasting impression. I hope he gets it next season.

    • Trevor5555

      This has nothing to do with Holland. Both Holland and Leivo will be fighting for bottom 6 spots but Holland mostly plays center.

      I love the depth we have for bottom 6 roles. Literally 12-14 guys are fighting for 6-8 spots on the 3rd and 4th lines plus 13th maybe 14th forward.

      The fact that Froese and Leivo need to pass through waivers to go to the AHL and have cap hits arround 600k to me means they should be kept on the 4th line or as extra forwards. I like both guys and would rather see Lupul, Michalek or Laich waived or traded.

      These guys are perfect bottom 6 players.

  • vermie22

    Wonder if the fact it is a one way deal is to actually give him a modicum of insurance if/when they put him on waivers to be assigned to the Marlies. Other teams would need to have to active roster spot open or risk losing him on waivers themselves and be willing to pay him that $ to play in the AHL if they did.

  • vermie22

    Not that I’m complaining, since Jeff is the most competent writer on the site by far and I really enjoy his articles… but shouldn’t some of the other peeps be pulling more weight? Especially the new “writers.”

    Or was an executive decision made that perhaps (gasp!) the dedicated and loyal readers here don’t care AT ALL about the hair styles and fashion trends of hockey’s elite?

    • It’s summer and most of our writers are volunteers or freelancers, whereas this is my job.

      If I’m going to be sitting at my desk anyway, I’d rather give the others time to recharge their batteries and live their lives.

      Also, let’s not take shots at Heather’s articles. Heather rules. I have a list of pieces that I want to do in the same vein, I’ve just been overflowing with hockey thoughts the past few weeks as well.

      Anyway, you’ll see a more rotating crowd as we get closer to hockey season.

  • Capt.Jay

    I like Leivo, but like Holland I fear he gets lost in the mix. Kinda like he gets 5-10 games to prove himself with competent players and then it’s back to 4th line minutes or the press box unless they over achieve during their chance. I hope he gets a real chance this year.