Noah Gregor isn’t taking opportunity with Toronto Maple Leafs for granted
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Steven Ellis1 month ago
There’s something special about opening night in the NHL.
And in certain markets, it’s amplified.
Noah Gregor knows this as well as anyone. The freshly signed winger converted his tryout deal into a full-season, one-way deal on Tuesday afternoon. After grinding it out for three weeks with no guarantee of a contract, the 25-year-old cemented himself as part of Toronto’s fourth line thanks to an impressive preseason.
It was the first real period of uncertainty for Gregor, who, after getting drafted 111th overall in 2016, turned pro in 2019 and stayed part of the Sharks’ organization until this past summer. But with no contract extension, he had to bet on himself, accepting a tryout deal with the Leafs just ahead of training camp in hopes of turning it into something more.
“I wanted to come in and earn a spot, and I felt like I did a good job in camp to give myself the best opportunity,” Gregor said. “I couldn’t be more proud to be a Maple Leaf and get things going here.”
There’s not a lot of job security for a bottom-liner on a one-year, league-minimum deal. But his two-way play, veteran experience and chemistry with Ryan Reaves and David Kampf made it an easy decision for new GM Brad Treliving to keep him around. That, and the Leafs were in a bit of a cap crunch, and signing Gregor and sending Easton Cowan ($935,833 cap hit) back to the OHL made the most sense, cap-wise.
“He did everything he was supposed to do to grab a spot,” Treliving said Tuesday. “If you look back, he was a prolific scorer in junior and is still relatively young.”
The 25-year-old had 43 goals and 88 points in his final WHL season with Prince Albert, leading the Raiders to a WHL championship. So he knows how to produce, but fifth-year WHL scorers are a dime-a-dozen. He was typecast into a bottom-six role upon his NHL debut in 2019, and has thrived in the position ever since. Gregor brings a nice mix of speed and skill deeper in the lineup. He’s offensively competent and could be good for 10-12 goals year. Gregor is versatile, allowing him to play in any situation, whether it be on the penalty kill or in an attempt to change the energy level late in a game.
Gregor finished the preseason with three points in six games, scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens last Monday. He played throughout the lineup, with Sheldon Keefe giving Gregor every chance to show his capabilities. But it was his play with Reaves and Kampf on the fourth line that helped earn Gregor a new deal.
“Being able to play with two veteran guys throughout most of the games, we were able to get a little bit of chemistry and feel off each other a bit in the preseason, that was definitely helpful,” Gregor said.
It’s not like an NHLer need any motivation to show up to the rink and perform. But when you’re trying to chase your next paycheck, the PTO adds a bit of extra pressure, and Gregor was up for the challenge.
“I haven’t been in this situation before,” Gregor said. “It was a lot of patience. Just kind of letting my agent and Tre handle the contract talks. All I can do is control what I do on the ice and my work ethic, and I thought I did a good job of that.”
But on such an inexpensive contract, there are no guarantees that Gregor will stick around. If Bobby McMann goes unclaimed, he’ll knock down the door for another opportunity with the big club. Alex Steeves, Nick Abruzzese, Dylan Gambrell and Nick Robertson are the others worth watching. Gregor has the edge right now, but he’s expendable.
If Gregor has his way, he’ll be here for a long time – and a good time.
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