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Photo Credit: twitter.com/mapleleafs

Friedman: Ho-Sang’s contract with Leafs was close, but still likely

Monday was quite the monumental day for Josh Ho-Sang as he was officially selected to represent Canada at the upcoming Winter Olympics. After years of being mired in a complex relationship with Team Canada, he will head to Beijing alongside the likes of Eric Staal, Daniel Winnik, and Justin Pogge in the hopes of securing a medal. All of this while without a proper NHL contract from the Leafs.

Fans have been clamouring for Ho-Sang to get his chance with the big club because of his strong start to the 2021-22 campaign with the Marlies. According to Elliotte Friedman in his latest 32 Thoughts post, it turns out the Leafs were seriously considering giving him that coveted promotion during the height of the Omicron wave.

23. It sounds like there were some conversations about Josh Ho-Sang officially signing with the Maple Leafs when the team was battling injuries and COVID. But, by that time, it was known Ho-Sang was on the Olympic radar, and going on an NHL contract would end the opportunity. If it was known he’d be up for good, maybe it would have happened. But, it wasn’t worth the risk without a guarantee, and the team decided to wait. We will see what happens after.

What this boils down to is the Leafs have been thinking of adding Ho-Sang to their lineup but ended up waiting on what would happen in regards to the Team Canada selection. Now that it has been confirmed he will be heading to China for the Winter Games, there is a possibility talks could resume either while he is playing or upon his return to Toronto. Meaning that if he were to be given a contract by the team, it won’t be until after the Games wrap up on February 20th.

I wrote last week about the possible reasons as to why Ho-Sang has yet to get the promotion many are hoping he can get before the season ends, with the primary reason being that the forward core is simply too crowded at the moment. It has been this way for the majority of the campaign, save for the first few weeks of 2022 when the Leafs were hit hard by the Omicron variant and 20 players entering protocol during the outbreak.

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When the NHL reinstated the taxi squad on December 28th, the Leafs added the likes of Brett Seney, Joey Anderson, Kyle Clifford, and Nick Ritchie to the unit in preparation for their return on New Years Day. Ho-Sang would have certainly been given a promotion to the taxi squad had the team decided to reward him with a contract. Talks likely stalled around the time the AHL was determining whether they would allow players to go to the Olympics and him being included on the long list of candidates to represent Canada. So had he not been one of the players in the running to don the Red and White in China, Ho-Sang would have likely signed around early January.

It remains to be seen whether or not he will be signed by the Leafs once the Winter Games wrap up, but a strong showing could certainly force their hand. Although Ho-Sang remains out of action after getting a concussion during a game against the Phantoms on January 16th, his youth and skill will make him a vital candidate to earn minutes once he is cleared to return. Should he translate his solid start with the Marlies (20 points in 27 games played) into an impressive display in Beijing, the Leafs may have little choice but to give him a promotion to the big club and figure out a way to provide him playing time.

At the very least, the Leafs are excited and are proud of Ho-Sang for earning an opportunity to showcase his talents on the international stage. Like the rest of us, Kyle Dubas and company will almost certainly be staying late to see how he does. It’s safe to say these next few weeks will be very interesting in regards to what lies ahead for Ho-Sang’s career.

Stats from HockeyDB.

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