The Leafs are over the cap—for now, this will fix itself in time—and they still haven't signed their RFAs yet, but that hasn't stopped the organization from addressing a need on the Marlies with two signings.
After rewarding Justin Holl with a modest NHL contract, the Leafs have switched gears and signed Marc-André Cliche and Colin Smith to AHL deals, which means they don't use up one of the 50 SPC spots available.
#MarliesLive News: The #Marlies have signed Marc-Andre Cliché to an #AHL contract.— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) July 4, 2016
#MarliesLive News: The #Marlies have signed Colin Smith to an #AHL contract. pic.twitter.com/sK1II3dJ0r— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) July 3, 2016
Cliche and Smith have a lot in common, even if they seem worlds apart at first glance. They're both centres, they were both traded by Colorado last year as that team started to totally revamp their AHL roster, and they both played very well on their new teams post-trade.
Cliche is 29, from Rouyn-Noranda, and he has a long and very successful career in the AHL interrupted by two years of dreadful struggles trying to play as the fourth line centre for the Colorado Avalanche.
Most of his hockey has been played for the Manchester Monarchs (now the Ontario Reign), one of the best AHL teams consistently year to year. He was captain there for three years, and he scored goals in the 10-20 range, points in the 20-40 range, and the Avalanche may have thought he could make the jump to the NHL.
He couldn't. A return to the AHL last year saw him return to his old level, and he was very popular in Bridgeport after he recovered from an injury at the time he was traded. He was the best forward on the ice for the underpowered Sound Tigers in the playoffs against the Marlies.
Cliche is a face off specialist who plays a tough style. He's hard to move off the puck, and at the AHL level, his skating and scoring make him an excellent depth player. He was also Rich Clune's roommate back in the day in Manchester, so we know he has a lot of patience and should be an excellent veteran presence for the Marlies.
French lesson time! It's Cliche, not Cliché, and it's pronounced like Cleesh or Clish. But everyone just calls him MAC.
Smith, we already know from his 23 games with the Marlies where he put up 22 points. He is 23, from Edmonton, small, fast and a pure scoring and speed merchant who plays hard all the time.
He sat out some of the Marlies playoffs due to the influx of returning NHL players, but a lot of fans were very upset at the thought he would not be returning.
Both of these centres are excellent additions, but neither is top C on a good team. The Marlies still have some hunting to do.