The Toronto Marlies are on a mission to ensure that they don’t fall behind in defensive depth at any point in the upcoming 2017/18 season, and this morning, they’ve continued to chip away at their goal. The club announced on Friday that they’ve agreed to terms with defenceman Michael Paliotta, signing him to a one-year AHL contract.
Paliotta is a former third-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, who selected him out of the USHL with the 70th overall selection in 2011. After that, he played a full four years with the University of Vermont, slowly progressing into a point-per-game player from the point and eventually became the school’s captain.
At the conclusion of 2014/15, Paliotta played his first and only game with the Blackhawks, picking up an assist. Just a few months later, he was traded to the Blue Jackets as a piece in the trade that sent Brandon Saad on his two-year Columbus vacation. Once again, he played just a single NHL game with his new club, though he managed 23 points in 76 games on the Calder Cup championship winning Lake Erie Monsters.
Paliotta became a free agent last year and signed with the New York Rangers, who assigned him to the Hartford Wolfpack. They struggled as a team for much of the year and so did he as an individual, putting up just one goal and 13 assists in 52 games.
The 6’4, right-handed Paliotta was a player originally envisioned as a shutdown presence, but his mobility and offensive awareness have afforded him new life as a multi-tool player. What his role with the Marlies will be remains to be seen, but this does guarantee them at least three right handed shots on the point, to go with Vincent LoVerde and Justin Holl, two players who also took the college route to get to the pros; Holl even doing it as a Hawks pick.
All things considered, this isn’t a game-changing signing for the Marlies, but having depth on both sides of the point is key, especially when it involves players who don’t yet fall under the veteran designation. Adding Paliotta gives them flexibility wrapped in a player that’s at least decent at the AHL level, and it’s hard to say no to that on a no-consequence, one-year deal. Not to mention, he’s still 24 years old; there’s an outside chance that they can still find another gear out of him.