The Toronto Marlies have announced that they’ve signed forwards Rourke Chartier, Scott Sabourin, and Tyler Gaudet to one-year AHL deals for the 2020-21 season. In addition, they’ve re-signed Rich Clune for the 2020-21 AHL season.
Some very interesting moves here, let’s get into it!
I’ve been speculating about signing Rourke Chartier for a very long time now.
I’ve actually been looking at him since he was left unqualified in 2019.
However, the issue with Rourke Chartier was deeper than I knew. One thing that’s plagued Chartier throughout his young career is his concussion history. This was confirmed in an article that Sheng Peng did for San Jose Hockey Now with Chartier. I highly encourage reading it, but I’ll sum some of it up. Chartier details three distinct events that affected him during his time in San Jose. In the article, Chartier reveals that he never actually recovered from the first concussion he received from a hit by Matt Frattin in 2017.
He spent the last year doing things the right way, recovering fully, something he hadn’t done in San Jose. He shook off the mentality that he should just play through his issues, and it’ll surely benefit him in Toronto.
One thing I found interesting was this. Although it was the Sharks’ decision to not qualify him, it was Chartier’s call to hold off on signing until he had fully recovered. Multiple teams kept in touch with Chartier and his agent throughout the year, and Chartier chose Toronto.
The organization pursued him for a reason. The 2014 5th round pick climbed up the ladder in San Jose, working his way up through the AHL to becoming one of the Sharks’ primary call-up options. At 22, Chartier was starring in the AHL and appeared in 13 NHL games, scoring a goal.
Chartier did this all without being at 100%. At 24, now fully recovered, Chartier will hopefully ease back into the game with the Marlies. It won’t be long before he contends for an NHL contract. This is a great, low-risk deal for the Toronto Marlies.
At the pro levels, Rourke Chartier has been a solid two-way centre. At 5’11, he’s a little undersized, but he’s made up for it with his hockey sense and work ethic. It’s also really difficult to count Rourke Chartier’s goal-scoring abilities out of the equation. We’re talking about a guy who once scored 48 goals in 58 games during his D+1 year in Kelowna, good for 3rd league-wide. Chartier has already proven himself to be a solid AHL forward. Now that he’s at 100%, the sky could be the limit for Chartier in Toronto.
I’m not going to lie, I had a chuckle out of this move. Honestly, Scott Sabourin is a brilliant story. This is a guy who was a grinder in the AHL for parts of seven seasons, no one expected him to make the NHL at 27 years old.
And then Pierre Dorion yelled “CHARACTER” somewhere in Kanata, giving Scott Sabourin, born just under 20 minutes away from Ottawa, his shot at the NHL.
The only reason I’d known who Scott Sabourin was during the Senators’ preseason against the Leafs was this: I’d written an article a year prior about remaining free agents, and I had put him at the bottom of the “Full-Time AHLers” section of the list.
But, still. There he was, facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He got absolutely trolled by Auston Matthews.
Then, because the Leafs don’t deserve nice things, this happened when the teams faced off during the season opener:
Now, it’s only fitting that Scott Sabourin could line up with or against Auston Matthews during Leafs training camp.
Sabourin had a whirlwind season, though. After solid performances as a depth player with Ottawa, he was informed that he would become a full-time Ottawa Senator.
Unfortunately, all of that was derailed due to an attempted hit on David Backes gone wrong. Sabourin suffered from a concussion, broken nose, and facial lacerations after hitting his head twice. One on a head-to-head collision with Backes (that gave Backes a concussion as well), and one due to an unprotected collision to the ice.
Somehow, Sabourin only missed two months due to the injury, finishing the season with 6 points in 35 games when the COVID-19 pandemic ended the Senators’ season.
I’m honestly shocked that the Senators didn’t re-sign Sabourin. He’s exactly the type of player that I think fits what they’ve been looking for. He’s a hard-working and tough player with high character. Instead, the Senators opted to trade a 2021 4th round pick for Austin Watson, who’ll likely take Sabourin’s spot as a 4th line right-winger.
I’m not entirely sure what Lawrence Gilman is looking for here with Sabourin. However, with a roster that’ll be ripe with younger prospects, Sabourin could prove those much-sought intangibles on the 4th line.
Tyler Gaudet is a familiar name to Leafs and Marlies fans alike. Gaudet signed an NHL deal with the Leafs in 2019. Although the 27-year-old’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, he was actually a very solid presence for the Marlies last season. He proved to be a great middle-six centre, spending most of his time on the team’s third line.
Gaudet is a good net-front presence, he’s able to set up screens, deflect pucks, and grab rebounds effectively.
He’s also able to create space for himself and drive play when needed, using his size and playmaking abilities to be a force offensively. Gaudet is also a very good faceoff man, although the AHL doesn’t officially track FO%, he’s able to use his size and smarts to win faceoffs effectively.
Tyler Gaudet is also a force defensively. Using his size and Hockey IQ, he’s a force on both ends, able to contain his opponent very effectively.
However, luck just wasn’t on his side this season. He had just a 5.5 shooting percentage, with so many of his high-quality chances just not finding the mesh.
It’s clear that the Leafs like Gaudet, though. They included him on their expanded playoffs roster last season, and he was a dark horse to find himself on the Leafs last season.
When he played with the Pembroke Lumber Kings, Gaudet was coached by then-Head Coach/GM/Franchise Owner Sheldon Keefe. When Keefe was hired to coach the Soo Greyhounds, he was reportedly crucial in bringing Gaudet over to the Soo, the team that earned him looks from the (then) Phoenix Coyotes. The Soo Greyhounds were then managed by Kyle Dubas.
Tyler Gaudet knows that this is a Leafs organization that believes in him and has believed in him for a very long time now. That’s why it comes as no shock that Gaudet has opted not to seek another NHL deal during such an uncertain time and will instead build up his value with the Marlies.
He’s still an effective NHL depth forward, in my opinion. I think that he could get an NHL deal from the Leafs if they find themselves needing the support.
Rich Clune is pretty much a Marlies’ player-coach, not just a depth AHLer. Clune’s career has taken him pretty much everywhere, he’s a guiding hand for the Leafs’ young prospects who are just starting their professional careers. At 33 years old, Rich Clune has pushed his way to the NHL, playing 139 games between the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, and Toronto Maple Leafs. For the last five seasons, however, his role has been a bit different.
Clune has taken more of a depth role, playing a total of 164 games in the last 5 seasons, just 31 in the last two. Still, when he does draw into the lineup, he’s able to make an impact. He still plays his physical presence role well, and he was able to put up three goals in 16 games.
It’s been a weird offseason for a select few of Clune’s friends, though. Kasperi Kapanen, who played with Clune during Kapanen’s first three seasons in the AHL and retained a friendship with him, was traded to Pittsburgh. Jeremy Bracco, who played with Clune during the last three seasons and was also notably close with Clune, wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer and signed with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Leafs are hoping Clune can help future Marlies as he (probably) did to guys like Kapanen and Bracco. It’s clear that the guy who was second to lift the Calder Cup in 2018 is someone who is well-liked among the Marlies. He’ll play as long as he feels he can play (with Clune saying on the Puck Pursuit podcast that he plans on playing until he’s at least 35). After that, don’t be shocked if he gets offered a role with the Leafs organization.
I also very highly recommend watching his documentary titled “Hi, My Name is Dicky” if you haven’t already (available on iTunes here).
Overall, some very interesting moves. Chartier is set to prove himself with the Marlies, Sabourin is set to try and become a mainstay on the Marlies’ 4th line, Gaudet will try and retain his 3C role, and Rich Clune will continue in his role as Marlies alternate captain and locker room presence.
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Featured Image Credits: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports/TSN/David Kirouac-Icon Sportswire/Thomas Skrlj