It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, has a surplus of defenceman.
In an effort to un-clog the logjam on the blue-line, the organization traded defenceman Andrew Nielsen to the Calgary Flames in exchange for forward Morgan Klimchuk.
Let’s address this right off the bat–this kind of deal doesn’t really have any implications for the Maple Leafs.
While Nielsen is still technically a Maple Leafs prospect, he’s been boxed out of the Marlies lineup as of late and his chances of piecing his game together to ever become an NHL-regular have dwindled in the last two years. In subtracting Nielsen, the Marlies were able to get a serviceable AHL forward out of the deal, one whom can step in the lineup and make an impact from the get-go.
The Subtraction of Andrew Nielsen
Before we get into discussing what the Marlies get out of this deal, lets talk about why the organization moved on from Andrew Nielsen.
Nielsen amalgamated to pro-hockey quite quickly, making the leap from the WHL to the AHL during the 2016-2017 season. Nielsen would go on to lead all Marlies defenceman in scoring with 39 points in 74 games that year, while serving as a staple on the teams power play and showcasing his impressive puck skills.
Then in his second pro season, Nielsen endured a rough sophomore slump. Mind you, the Marlies had a stacked blue-line last year–as the likes of Martin Marincin, Justin Holl, Travis Dermott, Calle Rosen, Vincent Loverde and Timothy Liljegren formed the leagues best D-core.
But still, it was Nielsen’s play that didn’t do him any favours.
His point total may have only dropped from 39 points to 29–but his undisciplined tendencies hindered him, as he led all Marlies in penalty minutes, with 143 last season. To put that into perspective, the Marlies’ next highest penalized player was enforcer Rich Clune, who spent 75 minutes in the sin bin.
Then, this season the emergence of Leafs’ 2018 first round pick, Rasmus Sandin, really shoved Nielsen, who alike Sandin is a left shot, out of the Marlies lineup. From October 19th to November 17th (eight straight games), Nielsen was a healthy scratch.
After suiting up for two games for the Marlies on November 17th and 18th, Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe had this to say about Nielsen:
“He’s just got to continue to work [and] continue to take advantage of his opportunities when they come,” said Keefe.
Frankly, Nielsen wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunities presented in front of him, and in lieu of that, he was shipped off to Calgary.
The Addition of Morgan Climchuk
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 28, 2018
Now, shifting to who the Leafs (but really, the Marlies) will acquire in the deal, we turn our attention to one of the Flames’ 2013 first round draft picks, Morgan Klimchuk.
Klimchuk is a defensively responsible forward, who has recorded at least 19 goals and 40 points in each of his last two seasons with the AHL’s Stockton Heat. The Regina native also made his NHL debut with the Flames last season and last off-season he inked a one-year, one-way $700,000 contract with the big club.
This season with the Heat, the 23-year-old winger has recorded three goals and tallied eight points through 17 contests.
“We have some depth up front, we needed to create some more depth on the blue-line, and so we [found] a deal that hopefully works for both sides,” Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving told The Calgary Sun when asked about trading away Klimchuk.
Another big upside to Klimchuk is his penalty killing ability, which the Marlies’ struggling PK (77.3%, 24th in league), could certainly use
For the Marlies, the acquisition of Klimchuk is a great opportunity to add some forward depth to their bottom-six.
Marlies forward lines with Klimchuk
Considering the fact it only cost the team Nielsen–a regular black ace on their roster–it’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward ploy for the Leafs’ AHL affiliate.