They weren’t kidding when they said Travis Dermott had little leverage at the negotiation table.
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Friday that they signed the still-developing left-shot defender to a one-year contract extension worth $874,125. The show-me contract is worth only about $11,000 more than he earned annually throughout his three-year, entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs.
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Dermott is coming off a largely disappointing season, failing to take meaningful steps in the direction toward providing plus contributions in a top-four role. The 2016 second-round pick was limited to 56 games after starting the season on the injured list of undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, and he managed four goals and 11 points in those games. It was also probably Dermott’s worst season when examining the underlying data, though the scoring margin did favour the Leafs in the 23-year-old’s time on the ice.
The expectation entering the season was that Dermott would establish his value — at least on a bridge-type agreement. Dermott will have another chance to do that again this season, while the Leafs will breathe at a little easier under the weight of the salary cap with a potential top-six defenseman on a flexible and highly-manageable bargain contract.
While made apparent by the value on the deal, Dermott will have to perform to establish the sort of value many had him earmarked for, because it seems he’s no longer promised a role in the Leafs’ top six. There is suddenly loads of competition at the defensive position for the Leafs, who have added T.J. Brodie, Zach Bogosian and Mikko Lehtonen to a mix that already includes Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Rasmus Sandin on the left side. Management has already indicated that Dermott could spend time on the right side.
Dermott will have the benefit of arbitration next summer after basically settling for the equivalent of his qualifying offer Friday afternoon.
Signing Dermott to such a modest deal is another important move for a front office that has navigated brilliantly around the salary cap this offseason. Joey Anderson, the return asset in the Andreas Johnsson trade, is the only restricted free agent still to sign.
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