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Leafs sign Josh Leivo to extension, buy time to preserve his RFA status

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The one-year deal adds 82 more chances to play Leivo in 34 more games.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The consensus opinion on Josh Leivo is that he’s a handy guy to have around. His coach’s opinion is that he’s a good pro who is working hard and has a good attitude about being stuck in the press box while the Leafs put other forwards on the ice most of the time.

Today the team extended him for one more year for $925,000:

From the linked press release:

Leivo, 24, has recorded one assist in five games for the Maple Leafs this season. The Innisfil, Ontario, native has collected 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists) in 46 career NHL games, all of which have been played with the Maple Leafs.

As useful as Leivo can be, that doesn’t scream out player you want to lock up to a contract extension in November.

But the reason for this move, which locks Leivo in at an amount below what you can bury in the AHL, is to buy time to avoiding having him become a Group 6 UFA.

When this new deal expires in the summer of 2019, Leivo will still be an RFA, if and only if the Leafs play him in 34 more games between now and then. Given the crowded roster on the team right now, they might not see that as something they want to do right away. Next year might be a different story. So buying another year of his RFA status now makes it more likely they can preserve the last year of it down the road.

In addition, Leivo’s value in a potential trade has now shot up, since the acquiring team doesn’t have the 34 game requirement to worry about for this season either and he’s locked up for a reasonably low salary for next year.

In the meantime, the Leafs can keep him in the press box, handily close by in case they ever decide they need to play him. There’s no word on if this contract contains any performance bonuses for good behaviour in the press box, but while he’s there, I wonder if he’s ever considered blogging?