The Toronto Maple Leafs have made the big, blockbuster move that fans have been waiting for all week… okay, that’s not exactly true, but they’ve made a move nonetheless. The organization announced today that they’ve signed forward Alex Steeves to a three year entry-level contract.
Terms of the deal are yet to be disclosed, though one would suspect you’re looking at the standard ~$900,000 + potential bonuses that most college UFAs pull.
Steeves, a native of Bedford, New Hampshire, is a 21-year-old winger who stands at 5’11 and weighs in at 185 pounds. This puts him still on the younger side for most college players, entering the NCAA ranks in his Age 19 season and playing up to his junior season.
At the University of Notre Dame, Steeves produced 33 goals and 69 points in 104 games, and exceeded the point-per-game rate this year, putting up 15 goals and 17 assists in 29 games. Steeves led Notre Dame in both goals and points this season as a result, with the latter being his second consecutive year atop.
JD Burke and Mitch Brown of EliteProspects were complimentary of Steeves in their College Free Agency guide posted this week:
Steeves is one of the most skilled free agents available. He’s deceptive in most facets of the game, firing look off wristers, rarely giving away his intended passing target, and changing gears and direction in transition to get defenders’ feet moving. The skill behind that deception isn’t particularly notable, and he tends to force plays that aren’t there. Off-puck timing and awareness make him a shooting threat, and he’s an active defensive player who supports the puck. There’s enough skill to believe he could become an offensive-oriented bottom-six forward.
(For more advanced data and information on other college FAs, I highly recommend the full piece).
The first player that comes to mind looking at his age, build, and qualitative description, while not a precise fit, is former Leafs winger Trevor Moore, who was signed at a similar age and stage in his career with similar production. Moore ended up becoming an excellent AHL talent and a solid complimentary depth player at the NHL level, though ultimately became a trade chip for the Leafs in order to land Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford.
Whether Toronto sees Steeves through or eventually moves him along, an outcome like Moore’s would be excellent from an asset perspective. It gives Toronto more AHL depth, a potential cheap winger at the NHL level in a year or two, and if he’s not a perfect fit, he can be turned into something else at no initial asset investment. In essence, it’s a no-risk, reasonable expected reward move that could even be more than that if all goes well.
Steeves’ deal is structured to begin in 2021/22, meaning he won’t be up for a second contract until the end of 2023/24. That doesn’t mean that we might not see him in town sooner, though, as he could join the Toronto Marlies on an Amateur Tryout to conclude their season. That might not be immediate, depending on whether or not he wants to complete his school year, but be on the lookout for that as a possibility.