The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that they have dealt winger Nikita Soshnikov to the St. Louis Blues for a fourth-rounder in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Soshnikov,now 24, came to the Leafs as an undrafted free agent, signed out of the KHL in March 2015.  After some good early work with the Marlies, he electrified Leafs fans with his first few NHL games in early 2016.  He joined a crop of rookies that included William Nylander and Connor Brown who came up towards the end of a last-place season, and he looked to have the favour of Mike Babcock.

In his next full season, however, Soshnikov was mostly relegated to fourth-line duty with centre Ben Smith and left wing Matt Martin.  While he brought great energy and a surprising shot, he produced nine points in 56 games in 2016-17, and suffered a concussion whose effects took months to dissipate.  Due to that concussion, Sosh didn’t get into the Leafs’ first-round series against the Washington Capitals, and by this season, a combination of injuries and a very deep winger depth chart meant he struggled to gain any NHL playing time.

2017 Top 25 under 25: #14 Nikita Soshnikov

Sosh had no points in three games this season for Toronto, and it seems clear that Toronto only promoted him from the AHL in order to avoid triggering an out clause in his contract that would have allowed Soshnikov to go back to Russia.  The Leafs made some controversial injured reserve moves to hang onto Soshnikov until this trade was consummated.

A fourth-round pick in 2019 is hardly a bounty, but it’s quite a respectable return for a winger who just wasn’t going to get playing time with the Leafs in the near future.  It’s also notable that this clears a contract spot for the Leafs, who were brushing up against the 50-contract limit.  The Leafs have always prized flexibility; this gets some back for a team that was feeling the squeeze.

The Blues will get a physical, aggressive player who might add some fire to their bottom six.  May they treat him well.  Goodbye and good luck, Sosh.

The effect of this trade on the available LTIR space the Leafs can use to add players is bigger than just Soshnikov’s base salary of $925,000. Because he had $125,000 in performance bonuses in his contract, and because of the way LTIR room is calculated for teams that have gone over their normal bonus cushion, the total space available is now the $5,448,334 listed above, or over a million more than it was before.

The Leafs easily have room to add some fairly expensive rentals if they choose to.