It was a foregone conclusion, but we officially got confirmation that Tyler Bozak will no longer ply his trade for the only NHL team he’s ever known.
According to Bob McKenzie, he is signing with St. Louis for an unknown term.
Tyler Bozak will be heading to STL.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2018
Edited to add:
Tyler Bozak gets a three-year deal from St. Louis with a $5M AAV.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 1, 2018
Bozak began his Maple Leafs career almost a decade ago, as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Denver. While a lightning rod for much of his time in Toronto, he surpassed all reasonable expectations of a college free agent, and is undoubtedly one of the best college finds in recent NHL history.
He was maligned in his early years for being played far above his head, with the media insisting that he wasn’t. However, in recent years Bozak found a role as a sheltered third line centre, as part of a line that exploited Toronto’s ridiculous winger depth to roast inferior players on their opponents. In my opinion, he got less credit than he deserved for his role in the last two years; most teams do not have third line centres who regularly flirt with 50 points. His departure leaves a hole in the Leafs lineup, which could potentially be fixed by internal promotion (moving William Nylander to that role), a depth free agent, or the option that we’re all too scared to talk about right now.
That said, the fact that he was sheltered was key. His defensive frailties make him unsuitable for a role higher in the lineup, at least on a good team. Bozak has also led a charmed life in terms of linemates, playing with Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and Mitch Marner for large portions of his time in Toronto, which undoubtedly juiced his offensive numbers. The Blues must be aware of this when playing him, lest they be disappointed with what they get otherwise.
In terms of style, Bozak is crafty offensive player, who understands space and positioning well. He finds himself in good positions, and seems aware of his own capabilities and limitations. Accordingly, he is much more of a passer than a shooter; he tends to only do the latter on point blank opportunities. As a result, he’s generally sustained a high shooting percentage over the course of his career. It’s unclear how that will be impacted as he ages. He is already 32 and theoretically on the downswing, though it seems reasonable to think he will still be a productive NHL player for the bulk of his new deal.
Good luck to Bozak, and his young family throughout the rest of his NHL career.