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Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Scott Sabourin

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Scott Sabourin to a one-year deal that will pay him $750,000 at the NHL level and $250,000 at the minor league level.

Who is Scott Sabourin

Who is Scott Sabourin? That’s the question Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews famously had to ask himself during a preseason game against the Ottawa Senators last year.

Matthews and the Leafs would get to know Sabourin in the coming weeks. The grinder scored his first-ever NHL goal in his NHL debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs during their season opener.

It’s hard to blame Auston Matthews, though. When Senators GM Pierre Dorion inked Scott Sabourin to an NHL deal, it came out of nowhere. Sabourin had been an AHL grinder for parts of the last 7 AHL seasons. Not exactly a guy you expect to make the NHL.

Nonetheless, the 27-year-old made it. The Orleans, ON native played a depth role and didn’t do terribly.

Not all fairy tales go smoothly, though. Sabourin was hurt in a freak injury. He went in for a hit on Bruins forward David Backes and went unconscious as he landed the hit, landing face-first on the ice.

He somehow only missed two months with an injury that had many fearing for his long-term well-being.

Overall, Sabourin played his role to perfection with the Senators. He averaged seven minutes of play, he dished out hits, and he somehow produced some offense.

For whatever reason, the Senators opted not to retain Sabourin, instead opting to trade for Austin Watson (who’s now tied for 6th in points on the Senators, funny how that works out).

In what could be considered a twisted joke from Kyle Dubas and Lawrence Gilman, the Toronto Maple Leafs offered an AHL contract and a PTO to Sabourin. He attended training camp and, most importantly, got to formally introduce himself to Auston Matthews (probably).

Why Was He Signed?

When he was first signed to an AHL contract, it made some sense. He would bring his physical presence to the young Marlies, who are going to see a lot of younger players try to make big steps this year. He was a very likely candidate to play on the fourth line in a similar role to what he had assumed throughout his career.

Related: Marlies Make Splash, Sign Four

Now, there was one wrench into this plan. It’s pretty doubtful that the Leafs expected to lose three wingers this early into the season. Joe Thornton and Nick Robertson were put on LTIR early on, and now Wayne Simmonds is expected to miss around six weeks with a hand injury.

It’s just a depth signing. The Leafs are running short on non-roster forwards, with just two at the moment ready to be called up directly from the AHL (and a third likely still in quarantine, Kalle Kossila).

Will We See Sabourin Play?

I mean this with no disrespect to Scott Sabourin, who I’m sure is a great man.

The Leafs do not want Scott Sabourin to play in the NHL this year.

Sabourin’s probably a taxi squad signing. Let me explain.

With Simmonds set to go on LTIR, the Leafs have to move one player up to the main roster spot from their taxi squad, one of Adam Brooks, Pierre Engvall, and Alexander Barabanov.

By moving one player up, they must call another player up to the taxi squad.

It’s likely that they want Joey Anderson to get some games with the Toronto Marlies, so they don’t want him to toil away on the taxi squad (rather, it’s possible that he’ll be called up from the AHL directly when needed).

Until Kalle Kossila is good to go after coming back from Germany on loan, the only forward the Leafs can put on their taxi squad would be Kenny Agostino. While I’d argue that he deserves an NHL spot, the remaining taxi squad spot likely isn’t going to be used on a player that will get into NHL games.

The team likely believes that Agostino has more to offer in the AHL than Sabourin does, so there’s no point in wasting him on the taxi squad.

After the Wayne Simmonds injury, the Leafs call-up priority list looks something like:

  1. Player out of Brooks/Barabanov/Engvall that doesn’t make the roster
  2. Player out of Brooks/Barabanov/Engvall that doesn’t make the roster
  3. Joey Anderson
  4. Kenny Agostino
  5. Scott Sabourin

When I say the Leafs don’t want to see Scott Sabourin in the NHL this year, I say that because it would likely mean something has gone wrong with each of the players above him or the Leafs encounter more main roster injuries.

Sabourin is already on waivers, the chances that he’ll get claimed are incredibly slim, and he’ll likely be moved directly to the taxi squad.

In other words, the Leafs are paying Scott Sabourin 250 thousand dollars to show up to practice until their players recover. Pretty cool.

Scott Sabourin Scouting Report

Scott Sabourin plays hockey. That’s the scouting report.

On a serious note, Sabourin isn’t terrible. He has good size and he knows how to use it. He’s fought over 50 fights in the AHL and plays a physical game.

He also produced a surprising amount of offense with the Ottawa Senators last season. He had a 14-point pace in a very limited role with the team, which came as a shock.

His role is pretty clear, though. He’s a grinder, a tough presence with a scouting report full of intangibles. Will we see it in the NHL this season? Probably not. However, he’s not the worst guy to have as your 8th option.

What’s Next?

I doubt this signing has much impact on this season. At worst, Sabourin might play a game or two.

The Toronto Maple Leafs face off against the Vancouver Canucks for a third straight game on Monday at 7pm EST. The real decision comes soon, as the Leafs will decide how they’ll set their lines in the absence of Wayne Simmonds.


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Spencer White is an Editor of Hockey at Overtime Heroics. He writes about hockey, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies, Newfoundland Growlers, and the Toronto Six. You can find him on Twitter at @FreeNylander, @MagicianMarner, and @LeafsMoves.