Long the poster team of free agent frenzy, Leafs sign only Martin on July 1 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Long the poster team of free agent frenzy, Leafs sign only Martin on July 1

Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell (51) is checked by New York Islanders left wing Matt Martin (17) during the first period of Game 5 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, in an April 22, 2016 file photo taken in Sunrise, Florida. The Toronto Maple Leafs added a big, physical piece to their forward group by inking Matt Martin to a four-year deal on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Alan Diaz
July 01, 2016 - 3:32 PM

Once the poster team of frenzied, often haphazard activity on July 1, the Toronto Maple Leafs lingered quietly in the background on Canada Day.

The Leafs only signed fourth line winger Matt Martin on the opening day of NHL free agency, continuing their path of calculated decision-making under team president Brendan Shanahan.

"We really weren't in the market, so to speak, to do much," Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "But you talk just to make sure you're aware of what's going on and if there's something unique that comes about that can help you you have to be available to do that."

Toronto was in competition to sign Steven Stamkos, the top prospective free agent on the market, only to see him opt to stay in Tampa on a bargain eight-year deal.

"We had interest in Steve Stamkos that did not work out," Lamoriello said.

Martin, formerly of the New York Islanders and a teammate of Stamkos in junior hockey, joined the club on a four-year deal with a reported annual cap hit of $2.5 million. A six foot three, 220-pounder with long, flowing locks, Martin has led the league in hits for five years running, chipping in with 10 goals, too, last year on one of the NHL's top fourth line units.

"It's nerve-wracking," Martin said of unrestricted free agency. "When the day finally comes you have a little bit of a pit in your stomach not knowing your future."

Lamoriello said Martin had fans on the Mike Babcock-led coaching staff. Babcock made no secret of his desire for more size and edge on next season's roster.

Last summer Toronto signed a handful of players to short-term contracts, then shipped those players out for future assets ahead of the trade deadline. Expected to turn over the roster to younger players next season, including No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews, the Leafs have less roster space to accommodate such moves this time around.

In addition to Matthews, Toronto's roster next year could include 2015 first rounder Mitch Marner as well as youngsters like William Nylander, Nikita Soshnikov, Zach Hyman and Nikita Zaitsev, a defender plucked from the KHL.

Martin figures to be one of the more experienced Leafs, a physical presence who can open up room for teammates in the offensive zone. Up until this past season though he had been a drain on the Islanders ability to keep the puck, boasting negative numbers in that respect.

While his contract lasts until 2020, the meagre annual cap hit of Martin's contract makes it a relatively low-risk signing for Toronto, nothing like those signings of old.

Toronto management groups pre-dating Shanahan, who joined the team in 2014, were known for wild, sometimes reckless spending on July 1. In 2013, the Leafs signed David Clarkson to a pricey seven-year contract that rapidly became an anchor which was eventually dealt to Columbus. A few years before that, the club added Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin. One was soon bought out, the other traded.

The Leafs, under Shanahan, have opted to build through the draft, selecting 11 prospects at the event last week.

Toronto has already been busy this off-season, trading for and then signing prospective No. 1 goaltender Frederik Andersen to a five-year deal. The club also locked up Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly to long-term pacts, traded for former first rounder Kerby Rychel and made Matthews the first No. 1 pick of the organization in 31 years.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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