The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed 33-year-old right winger Matt Read to a Professional Tryout Agreement, the club announced on Friday.
Read’s career has fallen a long way since he was in the Calder conversation in 2011-12 in Philadelphia, where he scored 24 goals and 47 points in his rookie season as an FA signing of the Flyers out of college and played his first three NHL seasons to a 20+ goal pace.
The Ilderton, Ontario native has appeared in just 31 total NHL games over the past two seasons, spending the majority of his time — when not sidelined by injury — in the AHL with Lehigh and most recently Iowa (61 games, 16 goals, 37 points in 2018-19). Over those 31 NHL appearances spanning 2017-19, he recorded just two points (both goals) while averaging just 11:14 in ice time per game. His last NHL contract with Minnesota in 2018-19 was a two-way deal.
The 5’10, 188-pound Read doesn’t have much in the way of a standout skill, but his smarts, work ethic, and ability to finish allowed him to complement a top-six line and earned him a four-year, $14..5 million contract in Philadelphia back in 2014. The game has only gotten faster in the eight years since Read broke the league, and combined with a collection of injuries — including a nagging ankle issue that beset his 2014-15 season and contributed to the start of his downfall — his mediocre foot speed has made it difficult for him to be as effective as he once was at the highest level.
No doubt, Read’s relationship with now Leafs assistant coach Dave Hakstol from his time in Philly would have played a role in securing this PTO opportunity in Toronto this Fall; Read’s last fully healthy NHL season in which he put up reasonable production — 11 goals, 26 points — came under Hakstol back in 2015-16.
If Mitch Marner is not in camp, the the Leafs’ right wing includes William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, possibly Jason Spezza depending on where he lands positionally, and then a collection of players competing for the final spot in Pontus Aberg (who can play both wings), Nick Shore (depending if he slots in at C or W), Read, and Jeremy Bracco. Trevor Moore and Nic Petan have some experience playing on the right wing as left shots, as does Ilya Mikheyev over in the KHL. If Marner is in camp, it obviously becomes that much more difficult for Read to force himself into the Leafs’ mix up front.
This is likely a tryout that’s as much an audition for the other 30 teams as it is the Leafs knowing the roster situation, but bringing in zero-risk options with no contractual commitment is never a bad thing, particularly for a team in the Leafs’ current cap position. The Leafs also have 48 Standard Player Contracts currently on the books (of a maximum of 50) with Marner comprising #49 if/when the two sides come to an agreement.