The Leafs have re-acquired defenceman TJ Brennan in exchange for forward Spencer Abbott.

The Leafs re-signed Abbott, a former free agent signing out of college, while letting Brennan go last July, and have evidently decided to reverse their decision with this trade. After an All-Star AHL season with 69 points in 66 games (and 11 more points in 11 playoff games), a season which included his first NHL game as a callup, Abbott took a considerable step back this season; turning 27 in a few months, he doesn’t appear to have a future at the highest level. Reasonably skilled but undersized and not particularly quick, Abbott has long been caught in a position where he isn’t physically-imposing enough to carve out a role for himself in the bottom end of the roster, and doesn’t appear to have the speed or NHL chops to crack a roster as a top 9 forward.

Brennan, 26 in a month, had a massive 25 goal, 72-point season for the Marlies in 2013-14, and added 14 more points in 14 playoff games. He never got a look beyond preseason, meaning he still hasn’t played an NHL game since the lockout year when he split time between the Sabres and Panthers organization. His AHL stats, with Rockford, are stellar again this season, although a step back from his amazing season last year. You have to figure the Leafs give him a few games down the stretch; there’s now space available and they could give him some powerplay looks with Franson out of the picture.

There are a few more NHL tools with Brennan than there are with Abbott. Brennan’s shot off the point is unquestionably NHL calibre, he’s offensively skilled, his skating is passable and will throw a big hit here and there; he’s solidly built at 6’1, 215 pounds. The knock, and in the AHL you could see clear signs of why it’s held him back, is that he’s never figured out the defensive side of the game well enough to be trusted with even strength minutes at the NHL level, which has prevented him from cracking the regular six of an NHL roster. With their defensive depth, Chicago certainly wasn’t the best organization to try to break through with. At 25-turning-26, the clock hasn’t quite run out yet. Maybe down the stretch he gets the look he never got in his first go around in T.O.

If not (or in addition to), the Marlies could use the scoring and powerplay help as they try to fight their way into the playoffs.

Brennan’s contract expires at the end of the season (RFA).