Stiff competition is going to be the theme of this Maple Leafs training camp, more so than your typical September anyway.
Up front, beyond the five firm top six forwards the Leafs have on the roster plus David Clarkson, there are going be as many as nine forwards with NHL pedigree plus William Nylander competing for the other six spots.
The Maple Leafs added a few more names to the mix on defence yesterday as well, extending camp tryout agreements to Henrik Tallinder and Brendan Mikelsson.
It seems unlikely the Leafs would sign both given they don’t have many Standard Player Contract slots available. But, with Stephane Robidas unlikely to partake in much of camp, these two add more warm bodies to the mix, and the fact that they’re both vying for contracts should help ramp up the intensity of the competition a little bit on the backend.
Tallinder is a 35-year-old stay-at-home defender whose legs have slowed, and after consecutive 82 game seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11, he’s starting to show the wear and tear of a long career in terms of games lost to injury. It’s unlikely Tallinder comes in as anything more than a 7th guy if he earns a contract, but having his veteran presence around in the 7 spot seems preferable to having a kid rotate in and out of the lineup instead of playing big minutes with the Marlies. All contingent on how he looks in camp, of course.
Brendan Mikkelson, once a Marlie, has mostly been an AHLer since getting drafted by the Ducks in the second round of the 2005 draft, but his .49 points-per-game off the blueline in the AHL last season is nothing to shake a stick at. If we get ahead of ourselves and say he has a good camp and the club wants to hold onto him as quality depth, possibly helping fill the void left by TJ Brennan down with the Marlies, the Leafs could give him the one-way contract he’s looking for at $600,000 or so and send him down. The Lightning gave Mikkelson a one-way deal in 2012-13, but he signed a two-way with Pittsburgh and earned an AHL salary with Wilkes Barre in 2013-14.
The Leafs have plenty of depth battles shaping up front but could use a few more names in the mix on the backend — these two PTOs appear to address that ahead of next week.
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