Toronto Maple Leafs Most Clever Move of Free Agency So Far

Josh Ho-Sang #26 of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Photo by Gregory Vasil/Getty Images)
Josh Ho-Sang #26 of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Photo by Gregory Vasil/Getty Images) /

On the opening day of free agency, the Toronto Maple Leafs saw seismic roster movement.

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost Zach Hyman, Nick Foligno, and their longtime star goaltender Freddie Andersen.  However, there weren’t only subtractions to the lineup. Toronto added Petr Mrazek, Michael Bunting, and David Kampf. There was one more move that isn’t going to get as much press but was very clever of general manager Kyle Dubas.

The Maple Leafs gave an opportunity to a former first-round draft pick. Dubas signed free agent Josh Ho-Sang to a professional tryout.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Josh Ho-Sang

When Ho-Sang entered the NHL Draft in 2014, there were already rumblings that he was a player to avoid. His outspoken nature and hubris had turned teams off from drafting one of the most gifted players in his class. Ho-Sang dropped down to 28th overall when he was selected by the New York Islanders. At the time, it was considered to be a steal with some believing that Ho-Sang may become the best stick handler in the NHL.

Ho-Sang joined the Islanders organization with a chip on his shoulder. He was left off provincial and national teams as a junior player and was only interviewed by 18 NHL clubs prior to the draft.

Things didn’t work out as well as both Ho-Sang and the Islanders hoped. He only managed to play a total of 53 games in the NHL over the last five years. Most of his time has been spent developing in the AHL. This past season, the Islanders loaned Ho-Sang out to Orebro of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) where once again, things went poorly.

Ho-Sang was cut by Orebro. In the team’s press release, their Sports Manager, Niklas Johansson, explained that “Josh is far behind in training compared to the rest of the group and the adaptation to our game has not gone as fast as we hoped.” Fortunately, Linkoping HC in the SHL decided to pick up Ho-Sang where he continued to play on loan from the Islanders.

This rejection wasn’t new for the six-foot-tall forward. In 2019 he had requested a trade from the Islanders but general manager Lou Lamoriello couldn’t find a club willing to make an exchange. Ho-Sang has faced rejection his entire career but he’s shown his resilience and continued to persevere.

At age 25, Ho-Sang is being given the opportunity to show that he has matured and only grown from his setbacks. His hometown team has extended him the chance to prove he belongs in the NHL. Despite his past and all the negativity that surrounded Ho-Sang since he played minor midget on the Toronto Marlboros with Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett, he can now take steps forward. Perhaps, this will be the year Ho-Sang achieves his dream and becomes a regular part of an NHL roster.

Even if that doesn’t happen, this PTO signing is a great one for Dubas. It’s a no-risk move for the Leafs. If Ho-Sang doesn’t impress at training camp, their relationship can be severed. Alternatively, he can become a reclamation project like Alex Galchenyuk. Even if he doesn’t make the Leafs out of camp, Ho-Sang can be given a chance to play for the Toronto Marlies and earn his way back to the NHL.

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I’m personally rooting for Ho-Sang. Not only would it be good for the Maple Leafs to find another talented forward but it would be a great story for the resilient athlete. There may not be many more opportunities like this for Ho-Sang so I hope he’s able to use it along with his past experiences and thrive.