Behold! Bear witness to the exact signing news you were expecting to see from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Wait, it’s not? Well, what else could you have been hoping for?
Earlier this morning, the Toronto Marlies announced that they had signed forward Nicholas Baptiste to a one-year, AHL deal. As is the case with pretty much every AHL-specific contract, the financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
From an immediate standpoint, Baptiste is quite an interesting player. Selected 69th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, he’s spent brief stints at the NHL to similarly muted degrees of success, between both Buffalo’s system and that of the Nashville Predators before joining the Marlies at the 2019 trade deadline.
Baptiste suited up in 14 games for the Sabres during the 2016-17 season along with another 33 games the next year. He finished those stints with a combined seven goals and three assists for ten points.
Despite his respectable cameos at hockey’s highest level, Baptiste has otherwise been relegated to the AHL for the bulk of his career. The 24-year-old has proven himself to be a decent American League scorer, however, setting a career-high in goals in that same 2016-17 season with 25 in 59 games for the Rochester Americans. Outside of that single-year breakout, though, Baptiste’s offensive potential has been largely unfulfilled.
When the Marlies acquired Baptiste this past February, they did so in the hopes that he’d see an offensive resurgence on their top line alongside Jeremy Bracco. That ultimately didn’t happen. But Baptiste still proved to be incredibly valuable to the Marlies in their surprising run to the Eastern Conference Final by becoming an adept possession driver on a fourth line with Josh Jooris and Colin Greening.
According to data compiled by The Faceoff Circle, Baptiste saw arguably the hardest minutes of the Marlies’ forward corps and still managed to break the 50% barrier when it came to CF/60 at 5v5. Obviously, that is incredibly hard to do, and speaks a hint of offensive prowess that may very well still lie under the surface for him.
In re-signing with the Marlies, Baptiste adds yet another veteran voice into one of the team’s youngest locker rooms in recent memory. He’s the perfect type of organizational depth you’d like a forward-thinking front office to stock their AHL affiliate with.
Best case; Baptiste re-discovers his offensive game and opens some eyes in what is unquestionably the AHL’s biggest market. Worst case; he costs nothing against the cap and can be cut loose at the end of the season.
It’s hard to think of a lower-risk scenario than that.