The Maple Leafs have signed 22-year-old defenceman Connor Carrick to a two-year, one-way contract worth $750,000 AAV.
After preparing their case for Peter Holland’s arbitration hearing on Monday by placing him on waivers today and signing Josh Leivo yesterday, the Maple Leafs are continuing their work on their remaining restricted free agents by crossing Carrick’s contract off the to-do list.
Carrick was a prospect the Leafs picked up thanks to the second Daniel Winnik sign-and-flip. A promising stint in the NHL to end the season — in 16:32 per game over 16 appearances following the trade from Washington, he was a 55% CF over 267 even strength minutes — was followed up by an excellent offensive showing in the playoffs for the Toronto Marlies with seven goals and 18 points in 15 games. Carrick had the record for points by an AHL defenceman in a single playoff run within his sights, but the Marlies did not qualify for the Calder Cup Final.
With a 42-point season to his name as a 20-year-old in 2014-15, Carrick has shown promise at the AHL level and his right-handed shot is always going to help his cause. Despite standing 5’10, he also has some snarl to his game and doesn’t back down from a physical confrontation around the net. The question mark with the former 2012 fifth round pick is whether he can continue to improve his foot work and defensive zone play so he can play a regular role at the next level.
Whether the Leafs are willing to press box a veteran like Roman Polak if Carrick outplays him in preseason is going to be a situation to monitor heading into camp. He is a safe bet to start with the Leafs, given he is no longer waiver exempt, but the Leafs have Morgan Rielly (assuming he stays on his off side), Nikita Zaitsev and Polak on the right, as well as potentially Frank Corrado (arbitration bound as of now), so Carrick is going to have to earn his minutes.