On August 15th this year, someone is getting a free wallet. That is unless Jimmy Vesey surprises everyone and signs with the team that drafted him.
Free wallets are neither wallets nor are they free, but sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don't—like the proverbial wallet you find on the ground.
Any player you sign as a free agent is technically a free wallet signing. You don't spend anything to sign them but a roster or SPC spot plus whatever you pay them, but usually what people mean by the term is the young prospect no one else has ever noticed or the drafted and then cast off player who still has something to give.
There is a sense of smugness associated with that kind of free agent, an idea that you figured out something no one else could, that you looked where no one else thought to. Please insert your own Pokemon Go analogy at this point.
When you are building up a team, generally you don't sign a lot of free agents, as they are usually older than the players you are trying to add. The time is past for the Leafs to be looking for players to sign, play and trade for picks. What they need to be doing is augmenting the supply of drafted players with free agents who have longer term potential.
All teams should do this all the time, because the chance of a draft pick working out is very low, and there are always possibilities in the undrafted ranks of players or Jimmy Vesey types who bailed on the team that drafted them and want to hunt for a better fit. If you can invest in the scouting required to find the good free wallets, the loss of the picks you have to give up in trades hurts less.
Finding free agents of value is most important for a team that is starting out on growing after years of poor drafting. Abysmal drafting? Not good drafting, anyway.
The Leafs have a lot of free agents of either the traditional sort or the free wallet sort. Most of them are new, but there is one who has been on the team for a long time. Here is the list:
|Justin Holl||AHL free agent and then signed to an NHL deal|
|Byron Froese||AHL free agent and then signed to an NHL deal|
|Andrew Campbell||AHL free agent and then signed to an NHL deal|
|Frank Corrado||Claimed on waivers|
|Matt Martin||NHL free agent|
|Stephane Robidas||NHL free agent|
|Roman Polak||NHL free agent|
|Nikita Soshnikov||Undrafted KHL player|
|Nikita Zaitsev||Undrafted KHL player|
|Tyler Bozak||Undrafted US college player|
|Kasimir Kaskisuo||Undrafted US college player|
|Trevor Moore||Undrafted US college player|
Not every UFA signing is a smart one, as Stephane Robidas' name on this list attests to. Not every undrafted signing hangs around for going on eight years like Tyler Bozak, either. But that clutch of genuine free wallets, smugly discovered potential jewels of various quality, that is a good list.
The three names at the top are the incentive signings. They tell all the guys the Leafs find in various and sundry ways, in various and sundry places, that an AHL contract might be just the beginning. They are the proof that the hope of growing on the team isn't false.
The Leafs have a long list of AHL free wallets too:
|T.J. Foster||AHL extension after signing as an undrafted CIS player|
|Colin Smith||AHL free agent|
|Marc-André Cliche||AHL free agent|
|Richard Clune||AHL free agent|
|Brett Findlay||AHL free agent|
|Cason Hohmann||AHL free agent|
|Éric Faille||AHL free agent|
|Ty Stanton||Undrafted CHL player|
|Nikolas Brouillard||Undrafted CHL player|
|Mason Marchment||Undrafted CHL player|
|Chase Witala||Undrafted CHL player|
|Willie Corrin||Undrafted US college player|
|Shane Conacher||Undrafted US college player|
A few of them are going south for the winter, some of them were guys someone else drafted and tried for years, and some are potential jewels starting out on an AHL contract instead of an NHL one. Every one of them can look at the incentive signings and think that could be them. And it may be. Rich Clune did it last year, got an NHL contract, and he plans to do it again this year.
No draft picks were spent in the acquisition of any of these guys, at least not Leaf picks. No players were traded for them. At least not the most recent time they've joined up. And in a few days, Jimmy Vesey might join them. Or he might find a home somewhere else. Wherever it is, someone gets to be smug about it.