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Leafs make underwhelming moves on July 1

That’s likely a good thing, but some excitement would have been welcome.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Leafs signed seven players today, and Garret Sparks, who turned 24 a couple of days ago, is the baby of the bunch. Ron Hainsey and Dominic Moore are 36 and Curtis McElhinney is 34. The trio of Marlies players signed are all in their thirties.

They aren’t meant to be around for years.

The longest contract is two years, and the biggest AAV is $3 million. They are all depth options who fill needs without being overly expensive. Placeholders for prospects that aren’t ready yet. Good enough alternatives until further improvements can be found. Veteran mentors for the developing youth who are the players who really matter.

Centre depth

Moore is a PK and face-off specialist who will be better than Ben Smith at 4C. His $1 million contract is inexpensive and for one year only. Signing him instead of Brian Boyle, who the Leafs reportedly did not make an offer to, doesn’t change the overall strength of the team. This signing also allows Smith to be moved to the AHL where he will excel. That’s a lot of good from one last hurrah from a former Maple Leaf.

Boyle signed a two-year deal with New Jersey with an AAV of $2.550 million. Choosing to go the budget route with Moore while the Leafs look for options from within their system was a smart, yet unexciting, move.

AHL depth

Meanwhile one of the few Leafs prospects at centre is about to be signed. He’ll add some depth to the Marlies.

The Marlies also signed Jean Dupuy to an AHL deal. It’s another dull move, but useful, and doesn’t cost the NHL club anything.

The rest of the Marlies depth/centre/right-shooting defender shortage was solved with three low-cost NHL contracts to AHL stalwarts. None of these players will excite anyone either, except maybe Marlies fans. Vincent LoVerde is a class acquisition, possibly one of the best veteran AHLers out there.

This signing raises some questions about the future of Justin Holl — a qualified RFA — while former captain Andrew Campbell, a UFA who was on an NHL contract last year, has signed in Arizona.

Goalie depth

The goalie situation was solved in the simplest way possible with a pair of two-year contracts to the existing two and three of McElhinney and Sparks, both of which can be buried with ease, so it doesn’t matter who ends up the backup or when they might swap. The other goalie in the system, Kasimir Kaskisuo is likely going to play a lot of Marlies games.

This leaves the organization without anyone to send to Orlando or to call up from Orlando, so an AHL signing of a goalie might be on the agenda. There is at least one candidate coming to the Leafs development camp.

Defence depth

The defence depth problem was something a lot of fans didn’t think was a problem. The signing of Calle Rosén and Andreas Borgman and the buzz around Travis Dermott seem to have given people the impression that one or more of those young players was a lock for an NHL roster spot.

The problem with that theory is that no one who has watched the Swedes in Sweden thinks they are going to be ready immediately, and Dermott is 20 years old. He’s not even had one full pro year yet. They’ll be contesting for jobs in training camp, and surprises have happened, but without Matt Hunwick, the Leafs had no experienced utility defenceman who could play multiple roles.

Ron Hainsey fills that void. His AAV of $3 million might give you pause, and it’s fair to question that, but it certainly seems to be the going rate for experienced full-time NHL depth defenders who can and do play higher in the lineup sometimes. He is likely, on balance, a little better than Matt Hunwick particularly defensively.

Hunwick, by the way, got a three year deal from the Penguins, making this a swap where the Leafs got the better fit for their needs. Hunwick is younger, but he’s not going away as soon.

Two years for Hainsey sees him exit just at the earliest likely point that Timothy Liljegren could be entering. By then, the position Dermott can fill will be better understood. Andrew Nielsen will be a yes or a no as well.

So this is another unpleasant, unfun, boring, yet likely necessary signing. Sure the Leafs could rush someone in the name of having someone younger for the sake of their youth, but a defenceman who prioritizes getting the puck to the forwards instead of trying to show off his own point shot is a good thing to have on a team of super-powered offence.

It’s not like the Leafs traded these young defencemen for Hainsey. They’ll get their chance when they’ve made it impossible not to put them in the lineup.

The cost

The total 2017-2018 AAV on all of these players is: $4.850 million, under the assumption that Sparks and the other three AHL signings will be on the Marles. That is just slightly over what the Habs are paying Karl Alzner in each of his five years.

The total SPC slots committed, assuming Brown and Hyman are signed is now 47. It’s 48, if the Leafs keep Justin Holl.

Is that it?

Some holes, big gaping obvious holes, are still open in the Leafs roster They didn’t get Travis Hamonic. They didn’t find any other high-end defenceman to trade for, and they aren’t going to imagine that Hainsey is in that league. They are still in the position of playing someone or several someones in the top four at a level that’s over where he should be played. They aren’t the only team in that boat.

It might be Hainsey who gets that job.

Nothing big changed. James van Riemsdyk is still a member of the team, no big names were signed, no one got term, but this is not necessarily the last moves the team make.

It’s a serviceable roster if it is the final list that goes to training camp. It’s marginally better in a lot of places, and there’s about three times the injury insurance there was last year.