Though he was one of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ best trade chips last season, I was still sad to see Daniel Winnik go. Signed to an extremely reasonable one-year, $1.3M deal last offseason, Winnik was one of those reliable and effective bottom six forwards that people don’t actually hate. Most endearing was his underrated offensive pop, which helped him move up and down the lineup and post 25 points in 58 games.
While I wouldn’t have necessarily campaigned for a long-term contract extension, it felt like Winnik would have been a useful guy to keep around. He’d provide depth and fill up a roster spot, preventing the Leafs’ young players from seeing NHL ice time too early, and not be totally painful and embarrassing to watch.
That’s why it’s so, so satisfying to welcome Winnik back to Toronto, especially after his trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins landed the Leafs a 2015 fourth round pick, a 2016 second round pick and Zach Sill. Better yet? That fourth rounder was paired with Brad Ross and sent to the Edmonton Oilers for Martin Marincin.
Seriously. Daniel Winnik is the gift that keeps on giving.
Born in Toronto, Winnik played Junior A hockey with the Wexford Raiders of the OPJHL before making the jump to NCAA hockey and joining the University of New Hampshire in 2003. Winnik was a key offensive contributor in his sophomore and junior seasons in New Hampshire, drawing the attention of the (then) Phoenix Coyotes, who selected him in the ninth round of the 2004 Draft.
After just one season of AHL development, Winnik made his NHL debut in 2007, scoring 26 points in 79 games. He spent three years in the desert before being dealt to the Colorado Avalanche and effectively beginning his career as a journeyman.
In the last four years, Winnik has hopped between Colorado, San Jose, Anaheim, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and back to Toronto. This time, he might stick around a little longer.
What to Expect in 2015-16
Much of the same as last season. Winnik can play down the middle and on the wing on almost any line you need him to, though he’s probably most effective as a third line guy who can move up and down the lineup when required.
Winnik actually kind of seems like the perfect player for a rebuilding team. As the charts above show, Winnik is not an offensive powerhouse, so he won’t singlehandedly win you any games, but he’s a strong possession player and has solid defensive skills, so the losses won’t be catastrophic. Furthermore, when the Leafs are ready to really turn the corner in two-to-three seasons, Winnik will be able to slide down the lineup and play in a shutdown role. He’s extremely useful like that, and I imagine he’ll be one of Mike Babcock’s favourite soldiers over the next two seasons (and possibly beyond).
When Winnik joined Toronto last season for the first time, his cheap, one-year contract made him a prime candidate to be flipped for assets. He was, and it was no surprise. While his new two-year deal isn’t exactly long-term, and it isn’t exactly expensive, it feels like this time around Winnik will stick with Toronto and become a “part of the solution”.
- Most Bulldogs Owned (2, maybe 3?)
- Coming up on 200 Career Points (184)
- He’s a top-six, bottom-six tweener, so really… not much else…