The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed free agent defenseman Victor Mete reports Luke Fox of Sportsnet.

The Twitter account @RinkRatReport was first with the news:

Mete, 24, was a fourth-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens back in 2016. The Woodbridge native won the Memorial Cup with Mitch Marner and the London Knights before making the Habs as a 19-year-old. He’s a 5’9″ left-shooting defenseman who already has 236 NHL games under his belt. He grew up as a die-hard Leafs fan, so it will be cool to watch him play for his hometown team.

I’ve been a big fan of his game for a while now having wanted the Leafs to draft him back in 2016 (they took Adam Brooks eight picks earlier). He’s a smaller player who doesn’t produce a ton of offense — and that’s a bit of a weird profile — but he’s an absolutely phenomenal skater. He started his career on a pairing with Shea Weber, and given how long ago that was, it’s tough to believe that he just turned 24 last month.  You could make the argument that he was fast-tracked into the NHL by Montreal when the patience and development path of another year of dominating junior followed by some AHL grooming might have been best for him in the long run.

Mete primarily played on the right in London; he’s very comfortable on either side. He wore #98 while Marner wore #93, and they were always the two smallest and fastest players on the ice. He’s a great transitional defender who can get out-muscled at times due to his small stature, but his speed allows him to frequently jump up into the play.

After parts of four seasons in Montreal, he was claimed off of waivers by the Ottawa Senators halfway through the 2020-21 season. He played in just 37 games this past season and ended up serving more of a seventh-defenseman role than a true regular. He’s likely best paired with a bigger and stronger partner who could use some mobility on their pairing.

By Evolving Hockey’s goals above replacement (GAR) statistic, Mete was below replacement level this season (-4.7). However, he was above replacement level in the previous four seasons and had strong numbers in his rookie season. It’s nice to have a capable NHL defenseman around if a need arises, but it seems like he’s destined to start the season with the Marlies given this:

The Leafs already have seven NHL defensemen in Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano, Rasmus Sandin, and Justin Holl. I highly doubt they’ll start the season with eight defensemen on their roster. A trade could follow in the near future, or else someone would need to start in the minors or pass through waivers to keep all eight in the organization.

In describing the addition of Adam Gaudette, Kyle Dubas said, “It is one of these bets that we make a few times every summer.” Mete is another one. He will provide NHL depth, but he also just turned 24 and this is one for the development staff to get to work on to see if there is some untapped potential to be mined. He is a mobile puck-moving defenseman who can also transport the puck, but he likely won’t produce loads of offense or run a top power play in the NHL; bringing more out of him offensively given his talents is one part of it, but he will also need to be able to make defensive stops and competently take care of his own end at five-on-five to play every night.

Victor Mete Statistics

2012-13Toronto Jr. Canadiens U15 AAAGTHL U15------
Toronto Jr. Canadiens U16 AAAGTHL U16------
2013-14Toronto Jr. Canadiens U16 AAA “A”GTHL U163312183010-
Toronto Jr. Canadiens U18 AAAGTHL U1810000-
2014-15London KnightsOHL58716231419
Canada Red U17 “A”WHC-1751124-
2015-16London KnightsOHL68830381853
2016-17London Knights “A”OHL501529441436
2017-18Montréal CanadiensNHL4907745
Canada U20 “A”WJC-206033211
2018-19Montréal CanadiensNHL7101313617
Laval RocketAHL713402
2019-20Montréal CanadiensNHL514711205
2020-21Montréal CanadiensNHL1403363
Ottawa SenatorsNHL1411225
2021-22Ottawa SenatorsNHL370774-19