Morgan Rielly To Stick With The Maple Leafs
Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle announced Rielly would be sticking around after practice Thursday. “Morgan will stay with our hockey club”, said Carlyle. For his part Rielly was happy with the news. “It’s a pretty good feeling, but I’ve got a lot left to prove.”
With time running out on Rielly’s audition, the Maple Leafs had to make a decision. Under the terms of the CBA agreement, all rookie Junior-eligible players are eligible to play nine NHL games before a year is knocked off of their entry-level contract. Obviously, the Leafs felt Rielly played well enough to burn a year of his eligibility, rather than sending him back down to Junior where Rielly plays with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League.
Of course, just because Rielly will remain with the club past the nine day tryout, there is no guarantee that the Maple Leafs will keep him in the lineup all season. Once Rielly plays 40 NHL games he will move a year closer to salary arbitration eligibility and unrestricted free agency, which means, should Rielly falter, he may be sent down to his Junior squad.
“We’re not guaranteeing the player will be with us for the rest of the year”, Carlyle said. “The option of him going to the AHL is not with us. We just look at him and his contribution has been solid. If he wasn’t making a contribution here it wouldn’t even be a thought.”
Through eight games with the Blue and White, Rielly has played well, establishing himself as one of Toronto’s top-four defensemen, averaging 18:00 per game (25 shifts), registering four assists and a minus-4 rating along the way.
Originally drafted in the first round (fifth overall) by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Rielly has quickly established himself as an offensive threat who can rush the puck with ease and make a quick outlet pass.
While Rielly’s offensive upside is very evident, like many young NHL defensemen, his defense and positioning is still a work-in-progress.
When you consider Rielly’s overall game, it appears as if the Maple Leafs have made the right decision in keeping him with the big club where Carlyle to continue to challenge Rielly to evolve his game, while spotting him into the power play from time-to-time.
Simply put, sending Rielly down to the WHL would not allow him to evolve, which is counter-productive. In a salary-cap world, it is also nice to keep a player on your roster that performs well and doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.