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Toronto Maple Leafs Sending Message With Offseason Signings

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The Toronto Maple Leafs made another move today, signing former Anaheim Ducks forward Daniel Winnik.

The one year deal worth $1.3-million is the latest in a string of signings aimed at bolstering the Leafs’ bottom-six forward corps.

The Buds have now signed or dealt for Mike Santorelli, David Booth, Leo Komarov, Petri Kontiola, Matt Frattin and Winnik. They also inked Peter Holland to a new two-year deal. Let’s not forget that the team still has Colton Orr, Carter Ashton, Troy Bodie and Trevor Smith signed from last year’s club (which means it’s safe to assume that David Clarkson will move up to the second line in 2014-15).

That competition for roster spots should bode well for Toronto, but the organization has also sent a strong message to the rest of the league that the team is taking advanced stats seriously and they believe they are still ready to compete in the near future.

On the advanced stats front, both Santorelli and Booth have had Corsi For percentages of over 50 per cent each of the last three seasons. Both players’ teams also had higher Corsi For numbers when they were on the ice than when they were on the bench.

As for Winnik, his Corsi For percentage last year was below 50 per cent, but in every other season of his career, it’s been over that plateau. And those numbers haven’t just been because of the system he was playing in Anaheim. With the exception of this season and postseason, his team has fared better in terms of Corsi with him on the ice than they have without him.

All three of these free agents should help Toronto’s dismal possession numbers. Furthermore, since they are more capable of maintaining possession, the Leafs should be able rest their top-line guys a bit more.

In terms of offensive production, both Winnik and Santorelli are coming off some of their best points-per-game seasons of their careers (0.39 and 0.57 respectively), while Booth has averaged a half-point per game in his career.

Contrast that with the likes of Jay McClement (0.21 in two years with Toronto), Frazer McLaren (five points in 62 games with the Leafs) and Colton Orr (0.06 during his time with the Buds), and you have a group of bottom-six forwards who are better in terms of possession and production.

The other message that all these minor signings sends is that Toronto believes that they are good enough up top to compete and they believe that the core that came within 10 minutes of advancing to the second round in the 2013 postseason and was flirting with the division lead well into the 2013-14 campaign is one that they can win with.

Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but their commitment to strengthening the group around the team’s core, as well as their new-found faith in hockey’s advanced metrics is a promising sign.

All statistics obtained from Extra Skater and Hockey DB.

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