The Maple Leafs have added to their depth chart at center ice, signing Dylan Gambrell to a one-year contract worth $775k (25k above league min.). With 233 NHL games to his name, Gambrell made it to UFA at age 26 after the Senators did not tender him a qualifying offer last week.
Picked by San Jose three picks after the Maple Leafs‘ selection of Carl Grundstrom in the second round of 2016, the 6’0, 190-pound Gambrell produced a near point-per-game season as a rookie in the AHL out of college in 2018-19 before sticking in the NHL for most of the last four seasons.
The Washington native’s career-highs in the NHL are five goals and 12 points in 49 games with the Sharks in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season; he averaged over 16 minutes per game that season, far and away the highest time-on-ice average of his career, including over 147 minutes of 5v5 ice time next to Timo Meier. He averaged 2:16 per game on the PK that season, second among Sharks forwards.
While in Ottawa for the past two seasons after the Senators acquired him for a seventh-round draft choice in October 2021, Gambrell played 60 and 63 games (plenty of healthy scratches) with limited production, but when in the lineup, he was primarily a fourth-line center. He occasionally shifted over to the wing and filled in at 3C for a spell in an injury-riddled 2022-23 season for the Senators.
If Pontus Holmberg can’t stick and/or doesn’t earn a job out of camp, Gambrell gives the Leafs a right-handed depth center option with a decent resume of NHL experience, including notable shorthanded ice time. He’s a good skater who can get in on the forecheck — and even creates the odd look off the rush with his speed — but he struggles to create or finish plays with any sort of consistency (Holmberg actually had one more point than Gambrell’s NHL career high in just 37 games last season).
It’s noteworthy that Holmberg has not played a role on the PK in the NHL, and with Alex Kerfoot and Noel Acciari departing, the Leafs could use an extra depth option with some PK experience in the league as well as a right-handed draw-taking option, albeit it’s never been a great strength of Gambrell’s with a career 45% on the dot.