Daniel Winnik is coming back to where he found success in the pre-deadline portion of his 2014-15 season, signing a two-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs worth $5 million (2.25m AAV; Winnik made 1.3m last season).

Last trade deadline, the 30-year-old Winnik was dealt to Pittsburgh for a second round pick in 2016, which looks like it’s going back to Pittsburgh in the Phil Kessel trade (with conditions involved). That trade is essentially reversed here with the Leafs getting Winnik back out of unrestricted free agency.

Winnik was a strong play driver and an elevator player who moved up and down the lineup and did the job wherever asked last season. There was no other Leaf forward who consistently brought as effective of a north-south game to the ice. His night in, night-out honesty will be a valuable presence/example for a young team that isn’t going to be winning too many games next season.

With the Leafs lack of quality depth and the big loss to their top six in Phil Kessel, Winnik will be expected to help complement scoring lines as he did effectively in his time in Toronto before the deadline deal. Winnik-Kadri-Lupul, and Winnik-Kadri-Santorelli, were highly effective trios when together.

Winnik’s 25 points in 58 games was pacing him for the best season of his career offensively before he was dealt. While he was shooting above his career norm at 10%, he was a positive Corsi player on a team without many players swimming above water possession wise last season. Winnik finished fifth in even strength point scoring for the Leafs last season despite playing in only 58 games for them (all 25 points he scored were at evens). He led the team in goals plus/minus at +15.

Winnik provides some size (unlike their other signings today), penalty killing acumen, and generally a good veteran presence for Mike Babcock (who will likely become an instant fan of him, as he’s a good pro and possession player). He led the Leafs in PK TOI at 3:27 per game before the trade, which also places him second in the league in 4v5 time on ice per game.

And, of course, Winnik could again be a depth add for a playoff-bound team when the Leafs are looking to sell at the deadline either this year or next. Winnik, for his part, gets a nice raise and a year more of security on this contract.

The Leafs have made a tonne of bargain-bin “bridge” adds today as they fill out their roster and buy some time for their younger developing assets, who will be receiving ample AHL seasoning under this management group.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at