The Maple Leafs signed a pair of depth options today with the announcement of a new two-year contract extension for veteran forward Kyle Clifford and a one-year extension for Marlies defenseman Carl Dahlstrom.
#Leafs have signed two players to contract extensions.
2 year / 1-way extension
1 year / 2-way extension
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) March 9, 2022
Reacquired from the St. Louis Blues after clearing waivers earlier this season, Clifford has appeared in 10 games this season, playing 8:34 per night on the team’s fourth line and chipping in two assists. Carl Dahlstrom made one callup appearance back in January versus the Islanders (12:30 TOI, +1).
The two-year Clifford contract speaks to Kyle Dubas’ commitment to retaining a high-character veteran leader who can toggle between the levels of the organization, provide mentorship to the team’s prospects, bring some leadership and “glue guy” presence in the big club’s practices, and supply a depth option for the Leafs’ fourth line in case of injuries. Knowing the Leafs, with their resources, can hand out buriable, league-minimum one-way contracts to non-NHL regulars without much second thought, it’s something of a, “why not?” proposition knowing the relationship Clifford has with the team and his desire to stay.
Clifford will need to clear waivers at different times in the coming months and years to remain with the organization, but the multi-year, one-way contract is somewhat of a deterrent to other franchises that may want to claim him just to use him in a similar role as the Leafs are currently. If he’s getting claimed, it’s probably because he’s receiving a real opportunity to play more NHL minutes elsewhere.
Clifford has received rave reviews from Marlies head coach Greg Moore for the professionalism and example he’s set for the developing prospects on the farm, in addition to his three goals in eight games at the AHL level. Outside of Jake Muzzin, he is the only player in the organization with Stanley Cup rings to his name. Over a long playoff run (should the Leafs ever go on one), as injuries strike, you could envision Clifford stepping in on a fourth line and providing safe-enough energy minutes down the lineup. He’s clearly not an everyday player anymore, but he’s comfortable in the role of lending an experienced, physical presence at either level of the organization as needed, with no expectation of regular NHL playing time at this point.
Signed as a free agent this past offseason after four years in the Chicago, Winnipeg, and Vegas systems, the 27-year-old Dahlstrom isn’t an NHL-regular-calibre defenseman, and he is in behind a group of five left shots on the NHL roster, all of which are signed or under team control through next year. It would require a calamitous string of injuries to see any of Dahlstrom in a Leafs sweater down the stretch and into the playoffs, but he’ll remain a part of the depth chart for the Leafs heading into 2022 training camp next Fall.