The Toronto Maple Leafs completed what was left of their internal offseason business this week, settling with winger Ilya Mikheyev on a two-year contract extension and locking up defenseman Travis Dermott to a one-year, $874,125 deal on Friday.
The 23-year-old blueliner returned earlier than expected from off-season shoulder surgery last season, which may have contributed to offensive numbers (4 goals, 7 assists in 56 games) that were not up to expectations. The one-year deal for the 2015 second rounder is looked upon as being symptomatic of the Leafs cap limitations after the additions of TJ Brodie and Zach Bogosian.
"I knew I wanted to stay in Toronto. My options were obviously limited (as a restricted free agent). It's been a little bit of a nerve-racking experience. I have been talking with my agent and he knew that I wanted to get (a deal) done pretty quickly, so we were able to do that and it's looking good now." Dermott said in a conference call on Saturday.
There's a lot of stuff going on in the world and it's taken a toll on everything. That was what was explained to me from my camp, so it's affected stuff a little bit. At the end of the day, I just want to be playing hockey and whatever numbers there, is the number that's there."
Dermott is a gifted skater, possesses good instincts and had the best plus/minus (+14) among Toronto defenders during the regular season playing mostly a bottom-pairing role, but when injuries struck the Leafs blueline before the pause, the Newmarket, ON native was pressed into a top-four role.
The new contract looks to be a prove-it deal for Dermott, who will be battling with Bogosian, KHL import Mikko Lehtonen and youngster Rasmus Sandin for playing time. The left-handed Dermott has played the right side in Junior, the AHL and at times with the Leafs and that versatility could give him more of a chance to get or stay into the lineup if he meets or exceeds expectations.
“(Sheldon Keefe) knows how I play when I'm at my best, and I know how I play at my best, so that's what they expect for me. Anything less, then there's guys biting at my heels to get in and steal my job." Dermott said. “My job is to come in and play my game and do exactly what they want me to do.”
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