Sunday evening the Toronto Maple Leafs made a trade with the Nashville Predators where they acquired Nicholas Baptiste, who is on an NHL contract for AHLer Emerson Clark.
This is a move the Leafs made for the Marlies, not for any NHL help. After losing Carl Grundstrom in the trade that brought in Jake Muzzin, and then losing the likes of Sam Gagner (traded by Canucks to Oilers), Mason Marchment (collarbone injury), and Chris Mueller (hamstring injury) they needed the help.
.@SportChek Player Alert: The @MapleLeafs have acquired forward Nicholas Baptiste from the Nashville Predators in exchange for future considerations.— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 25, 2019
Baptiste will report to the @TorontoMarlies (AHL). #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/gsssGKWmTK
Baptiste is under contract for an AAV of $787,500 for this year. That amount would be prorated if he ever ended up on the NHL roster. His deal is a two-way, and he is not waiver exempt, but he would have cleared waivers at some point this season to go to Milwaukee. The deal expires with Baptiste as an RFA with arbitration rights.
Baptiste is a still youngish player at 23 who has some NHL experience with the Buffalo Sabres. They drafted him in the third round in 2013. Looking at his stats and highlights, he seems like a guy who can score some goals and play in front of the net for the Marlies.
Die By The Blade wrote about Baptiste last year after he got an extended look in the NHL:
After selecting him 69th overall in 2013, the Buffalo fan base had extremely high hopes for the big power-forward. Last season with the Rochester Amerks, he posted 41 points in 59 games, a 13 point improvement from his production in 2015-16. He regressed significantly from a scoring standpoint in the AHL this year, though he did receive a longer look with the Sabres during the second half.
Despite only producing six points during his 33 game stint with the big club, he has all of the tools to be an effective NHL player. He’s big, fast and has the ability to score some highlight-reel goals, but he needs to find his consistency in short order. With several other young forwards looking to compete for a permanent role in Buffalo next season, this may be Baptiste’s last chance to separate himself from the pack, assuming the team elects to re-sign him this summer.
Let’s see some highlights of his to show him in action:
Going the other way is Emerson Clark. The 26-year-old feisty winger, who has a penchant for fighting and being an “energy guy” on the fourth line in the AHL, has spent most of his 2018-19 season as a healthy scratch behind Rich Clune and more recently Tom Sestito. Clark only played in six games for the Marlies before being sent down in mid-January to the ECHL Newfoundland Growlers where he only got in six games before the trade.
It’s hard to say too much about Clark since he played so little, but his first introduction to the franchise was in the preseason when he fought Tyler Randell of the Sabres.
Whatever Baptiste is, he’s at least half a league above Clark, and has shown he can score goals in the AHL. If the Leafs really needed a depth call-up, he’d keep his waiver exemption for nine games or 29 days.