Cross two more items off Dave Nonis’s off-season to-do list.
The Toronto Maple Leafs general manager locked up two of his last five restricted free agents on Wednesday, signing Peter Holland to a two-year deal and Carter Ashton to a one-year deal.
While Ashton simply accepted his qualifying offer of $850,500 on a two-way deal, Holland received a one-way contract for what’s believed to be a little less per year in order to get more financial security. (Players on one-way deals are paid NHL money even in the minors.)
The two 23-year-olds split time between the Leafs and the Marlies last season but will almost certainly stay in the NHL next season. Both are eligible for waivers and would appear to be the best candidates for the bigger roles Nonis has said the organization’s minor league players will be getting.
Of the two, Holland has the higher offensive ceiling. A former first-round pick, he has 105 points in 119 regular season games in the AHL at a relatively young age, and led the Marlies in scoring in the postseason.
A serious foot injury limited his impact with the Leafs, but Holland still managed 10 points in 39 games in limited ice time after coming over in a trade (for a second-round pick, seventh-round pick and a prospect) from the Anaheim Ducks.
Ashton, meanwhile, has just three assists in 47 career NHL games but showed some upside with the Marlies last year with 16 goals in 24 regular season games.
At the very least, these two should end up with spots on Toronto’s fourth line, which figures to play a much more prominent role than the six or seven minutes a game it received last year.
Still awaiting contracts from the Leafs are Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson and James Reimer. Franson and Reimer both have arbitration dates scheduled for later this month, so their contracts will get done one way or another.