The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed 24-year-old defenceman Justin Holl to a one year entry-level contract.
This is a move that should secure some much-needed help for a currently-thin Toronto Marlies blue line.
Originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2010 draft, the Minnesota native only ever saw action for their farm team after Rockford signed him to an AHL contract. Holl spent the majority of his first professional season with the Indy Fuel (ECHL) before becoming a free agent last summer.
During his 60 regular season games, the rookie AHL defenseman put up 21 points, 19 of which were accrued at even strength. Considering his offensive capabilities (thought highly enough in the NCAA to play a season at wing), those numbers were perhaps a little disappointing, but there may be more to give going forward.
His overall performance certainly did enough to impress Sheldon Keefe and Kyle Dubas. Holl was one of the Marlies‘ most disciplined players on the team, called for just five double minors all season, and there’s no doubt that his right-handed shot has helped his cause. He fits very well into the Marlies possession game and is more than capable of making plays in the offensive zone.
With a year in the organization under his belt and the added insurance of this contract, Holl may flourish with the confidence such security and familiarity can give a player.
At 24 years old, Holl is far from a veteran, but he’ll provide some much needed stability and depth on the Marlies defense. With Stuart Percy departed, T.J Brennan likely to follow suit and Connor Carrick a strong candidate for a Leafs roster spot, the current Marlies blue line only features Andrew Campbell and Viktor Loov with more than a single season of professional experience to their name. Given the current other options are the less experienced Rinat Valiev, Travis Dermott, Andrew Nielsen and Stephen Desrocher, Holl might not be the only defensive addition to the Marlies this summer.
An entry-level contract might seem like overkill, but the 6’3, 195-pound Holl comes cheap ($742,500 NHL/$70,000 AHL) and there were likely other suitors wanting to offer this kind of deal if Toronto went the AHL route with him again.
Holl may not be at the top of the list of possible callups, but if he continues to impress management there is the chance Holl receives a look in the NHL late in the season.