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Happy New Year, Justin Holl

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The Maple Leafs now have two defenders under contract through the next two years.

New York Rangers v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

Today, as the Maple Leafs prepare to play the Minnesota Wild just a few miles away from Justin Holl’s hometown of Edina Minnesota, they have announced they’ve signed the 27-year-old defender to a three year contract extension.

The deal is for $2 million per year. Holl will be 31 when the contract ends in 2023.

Justin Holl has taken an non-traditional road to the NHL. He was originally drafted by Chicago in 2010, but was never signed by them. He was also originally a forward, like Jake Gardiner, who played on the same high school team with Holl. He attended the University of Minnesota for four years as a defender and then took a contract with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. He spent most of his first pro season in the ECHL, making him one of the very short list of ECHL to NHL success stories.

After one standout year in the E, the Toronto Marlies signed him, and then in 2016, he was signed to an NHL ELC. It was only one year in length because of his age. He was resigned to a one year deal for a league-minimum $650,000 in 2017, and is currently finishing a two-year deal at $675,000 per year.

Famously disliked by coach Mike Babcock, Holl spend most of 2018-2019 not playing as he appeared in only 11 NHL games, where his results were poor. He was never sent to the minors, never played on a conditioning loan, and so those 11 games were his entire season.

In this season, he has played in 38 of 40 games, and has moved up the depth chart and in ice time under Sheldon Keefe. He has played almost exclusively with the currently-injured Jake Muzzin since Keefe took over, and has played (well) with Martin Marincin since Muzzin’s injury.

As a practitioner of Keefe’s offensive cycle that is possession-focused and relies on defenders to play like wingers, he fits right in on the team. He has one goal and 10 assists so far, and on a team that struggles defensively, his On-Ice Expected Goals Against (from Evolving Hockey) are good. He is tied with Cody Ceci and just ahead of Travis Dermott.

Holl is not a power-play threat, and is serviceable on the penalty kill. He would likely play something closer to fourth to fifth defender minutes on a team struggling less with their defensive roster choices. At $2 million per year, he should be easy enough to fit in to the Leafs plans for how to dole out their cap space.

Holl joins Morgan Rielly as the only non-prospect defender under contract past this season.