The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced the signing of Travis Boyd to a one-year contract valued at $700k.

Boyd turned 27 this year and split time between the Washington Capitals and their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, this past season. A sixth-round pick in 2011, he has collected 35 points in 85 NHL games in his career thus far, including 10 points in 24 NHL games this past season in a completely sheltered role playing primarily alongside Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik:

In the previous season, Boyd wasn’t gifted offensive zone starts at the same rate, but he was still extremely sheltered in the competition he was facing. He played primarily with Chandler Stephenson and Devante Smith-Pelly, compiling a respectable 20 points in 53 games.

While it is a plus that he is right-handed, his career faceoff numbers are very weak (39.5), meaning he would need to be a project for new Leafs assistant coach Manny Malhotra.

Boyd joins the mix in a bottom-six center group that includes Alex Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, Jason Spezza, and Adam Brooks. There is a common theme here and that is that all these players tend to be more offensive than defensive, although Kerfoot and Engvall have both shown some promise as penalty killers.

It’s also worth noting that Kerfoot’s best hockey was played on the left-wing (and not because he was with John Tavares; this was also true in Colorado for him). At this point in time, they haven’t brought in anyone even remotely able to challenge him for that 3C spot, potentially bumping him to the wing should he lose out on it.

It will be interesting to see if the Leafs do look at any checking centers to add to the mix. Their top two lines are offensive and a checking line to alleviate some of those responsibilities would come in handy in tight playoff matchups. As it stands now, they don’t have the depth or defensive acumen to put together that type of unit in their bottom six. Earlier in the day, Columbus signed Mikko Koivu for only $1.5 million, and he fills a clear defensive need that the Leafs actually lack.

Partway through last season after the Leafs extended Pierre Engvall rather randomly, I wrote:

He very clearly entered the league on a bit of a heater and has come back down to earth. He has two points in his last 16 games. They have tried him at center, but he really looks to be a winger. If his production normalizes to that of a 20-point player who is a fourth left winger that can penalty kill, it is valuable, but $1.25 million per is a bit steep for a team that is tight against the cap.

While many things have happened since then, the gap between Engvall and Koivu is certainly not $250K, even at this point in their respective careers. While the Boyd signing could ultimately mean nothing and also pay off, he’s another offensively-inclined player added to the mix of a forward group that lacks the defensive depth to free up their elite offensive talent to run wild offensively.

Over the past few seasons, the Leafs (lack of) depth has certainly caught up to them in the playoffs, with head coach Sheldon Keefe barely acknowledging the existence of his fourth line against Columbus. The burden has fallen on their top two lines to take all the top matchups and also produce, and the results obviously speak for themselves. Perhaps the strategy is that their top players continue to take those matchups and their depth simply produces more in the playoffs. To this point, it doesn’t appear that they seem willing to build a bottom-six, defensive checking line to take a bunch of defensive zone faceoffs, some tough matchups, and free up one of their top two lines offensively.

When it comes to Travis Boyd in particular, he’s certainly shown he can contribute in the NHL offensively. It’s a good depth signing, and you can’t really criticize anything the Leafs can bury in the minors for free considering how much money they have at their disposal. If anything, he’s certainly shown to be better than Frederik Gauthier as a depth option (offensively, anyway). There is still work to do here, though.

Travis Boyd Scouting Report

McKeen’s Yearbook 2018-19 – While Hershey had a rare down year, Boyd continued to produce offense and earned his first NHL stint, including one playoff game to start his career off with a ring. The former Golden Gopher has the offensive tools necessarily to be a respectable secondary scoring presence in the NHL, although his size and lack of attention to detail in his own zone mean he will likely need to be sheltered, whether with a more responsible linemate, or with favorable shifts. Expected to compete for the fourth line center job in 2018-19, he will also need to prove that he can play effectively in the greasy areas in order to secure that spot and create new career highlights.

McKeen’s Yearbook 2017-18 – In many ways, Travis Boyd has a lot of the same prospect attributes as Jakub Vrana, profiled above. He is a very good puck handler, understands his role in all three zones and knows how to fire the puck in anger. The main differences between the two are that while Vrana is a very good skater, Boyd is only in the range of average, and Boyd is around 2.5 years older than Vrana, giving him less room for improvement. He has earned an NHL opportunity.

Travis Boyd Statistics

2008-09Hopkins HighUSHS-MN26262551-|-
2009-10USNTDP JuniorsUSHL358101818-12|-
U.S. National U17 TeamUSDP5210142422|-
U.S. National U18 TeamUSDP10000|-
USA U17WHC-1761230|-
2010-11USNTDP JuniorsUSHL2451318102|-
U.S. National U18 TeamUSDP6013253816|-
USA U18WJC-18624625|-
2011-12Univ. of MinnesotaNCAA3518942|-
2012-13Univ. of MinnesotaNCAA403111482|-
2013-14Univ. of MinnesotaNCAA4192332184|-
2014-15Univ. of MinnesotaNCAA32192241109|-
Hershey BearsAHL21120-2|-
2015-16Hershey BearsAHL76213253246|Playoffs2127943
2016-17Hershey BearsAHL761647631619|Playoffs121782-5
2017-18Washington CapitalsNHL801122|Playoffs100000
Hershey BearsAHL6115324712-24|-
2018-19Washington CapitalsNHL535152066|Playoffs100000
Hershey BearsAHL20112-2|-
2019-20Washington CapitalsNHL24371029|Playoffs410100
Hershey BearsAHL442621|-
2020-21Toronto Maple LeafsNHL-----|-