In a bit of a surprising move, coming the day after the Leafs added a host of depth forwards to the team, they added a defender today. It’s likely fairer to say they converted a left-shooting tweener into a right-shooter, which the team needs more of.
Jordan Schmaltz, who turns 26 this fall, was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2012, 25th overall out of the USHL system. He then attended the University of North Dakota, where his coach was...wait for it... Dave Hakstol.
After finishing three years in the NCAA, he joined the Blues, but hasn’t been able to get himself onto the NHL team full time. His 20 games in the NHL last season was his career high. His stats in his cumulative sub-500 minutes of NHL time are neither terrible, nor very good, and he hasn’t really been a position to read much into those stats.
Schmaltz is what counts as big for a defender in the new NHL, at 6’2” and just under 200 lbs. He also has the most important attribute for a job on the Leafs: a league minimum contract. He costs $700,000 this season, on a one-way deal, and he is an RFA with arbitration rights when it expires next summer.
Schmaltz replaces Andreas Borgman, a left-shooting defender of similar size who was signed by the Leafs as a free agent. He played 48 games the season before last in the NHL and had some intriguing statistical results that hinted at a little bit of offensive talent and at least third-pair level defensive ability. While still waiver exempt, he was never called up to the Leafs last season, despite multiple injuries to defenders.
The Leafs, and Hakstol, might see Schmaltz as a more likely proposition on the third pair as a player that has a good AHL resume that he hasn’t been able to translate into the NHL. St. Louis is stacked on the right side at the top end, and they seem to like Robert Bortuzzo on the bottom end. No accounting for taste.
Welcome to the team, Jordan, and not to get too sentimental, but I will always wish Borgman well. Go assimilate the western conference!