Finally, after weeks of no news surrounding the Maple Leafs, we finally have something to talk about. And it involves a pretty fascinating player.
The Maple Leafs have signed Zach Aston-Reese to a PTO just a few weeks prior to their training camp opening up. The 28-year-old played with both the Pittsburg Penguins and Anaheim Ducks last season, scoring 15 points in 69 games.
This move makes a lot of sense for both Toronto and Aston-Reese. It would begin with making Toronto’s training camp a lot more competitive, since it seems like there’s only fourth line spots open at the moment.
The 28-year-old would also bring something different to the team — similar to Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
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A fourth line player who’s most definitely not afraid to throw his body around, while also being able to contribute offensively. If Aston-Reese were to join the Maple Leafs, be it on a contract or a PTO, he’d be the heaviest hitter within the organization.
Last season, the 28-year-old finished with the 16th most hits in the entire NHL with 231 in 69 games. On Toronto’s roster, that would put him in first place by a long shot — 83 hits ahead of Wayne Simmonds.
Comparing the two of Aston-Reese and Aube-Kubel, you can see that they won’t be the most offensive players. Aube-Kubel has more offensive upside than Aston-Reese, but the two will likely bring you the same thing — hits.
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Prior to free agency, I wrote a little more on Aston-Reese and why he makes so much sense Toronto. (This was obviously before the signing of Calle Jarnkrok.)
What the 28-year-old will also bring is defensive awareness. Aston-Reese is very good at neutralizing the play in his own zone and it’s something the fourth line will need a lot. Pairing him up with Aube-Kubel would be an intriguing test within the bottom half of Toronto’s lineup.
Not having the most points last year, Aston-Reese is also the perfect candidate to have a turnaround season. There’s a lot of potential upside when it comes to this fourth line — possibly even a force to be reckoned with throughout the year.
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What’s most interesting about this signing is the amount of contract slots Toronto has available at the moment. Without Rasmus Sandin signed, the Maple Leafs are at a total of 48 contracts — meaning they’ll hit the maximum of 50 if both Sandin and Aston-Reese sign.
With only a few weeks until Maple Leafs training camp opens up, things just got a little more interesting.

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