July 21st, 2024

Leafs sign Tanev to six-year, US$27M contract, add OEL as part of blue-line boost

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on July 1, 2024.

Dallas Stars defenceman Chris Tanev (3) clears the puck against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of Game 5 of the Western Conference finals in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Friday, May 31, 2024, in Dallas. Tanev is set to play in his hometown. The veteran defenceman and the Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to a six-year, US$4.5-million contract on Monday about 90 minutes before the opening of NHL free agency.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Julio Cortez

TORONTO – Chris Tanev has come home.

The veteran defenceman and the Toronto Maple Leafs agreed to a six-year, US$27-million contract Monday about 90 minutes before the opening of NHL free agency.

“Consummate pro,” said general manager Brad Treliving. “(Plays) hard minutes against top players.”

The Leafs then further added to their blue-line corps, inking Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a four-year deal worth $14 million and Jani Hakanpaa to a two-year, $3-million agreement.

“One of the things we really wanted to focus in on over the course of the summer was trying to augment our defence,” Treliving said. “We thought we did that.”

Tanev had two goals and 19 points in 75 games in 2023-24 with the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars.

The Toronto native’s true value, however, comes at the other end of the rink in a tenacious shutdown role, where the 34-year-old is known for putting his body on the line blocking shots.

“Always trying to win,” Tanev said of where that desire comes from. “I’ve had that in my life the whole time. I have two younger brothers. We grew up battling against each other.

“That’s all we did.”

His rights were acquired by Toronto from Dallas on Saturday for a minor-league forward on an expiring contract and a 2026 seventh-round pick in order to get a head start on negotiations.

“A team with elite talent, some of the best players in the world,” Tanev said of the Leafs roster that includes Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. “They’ve had a ton of regular-season success. Been impressive watching their top-end guys.”

The undrafted Tanev has 33 goals and 190 points in 792 regular-season games with the Vancouver Canucks, Flames and Stars. He’s added 13 points (one goals, 12 assists) in 60 playoff contests.

“I’m a Toronto kid,” Tanev said. “Definitely excited to raise my family here.”

The right-shooting blueliner looks set to partner with Morgan Rielly, who he skated alongside at the 2016 world championships.

“Great player, great person,” Tanev said. “We got along well. Talked to him over the last day and a half about his thoughts of playing with me. That can potentially be a good fit.”

Ekman-Larsson joins the Leafs after winning the Stanley Cup with the Florida Panthers. The 32-year-old had nine goals and 32 points across 80 games in 2023-24 before adding six points (two goals, four assists) in 22 playoff contests.

“Oliver’s got the ability to play both sides,” Treliving said. “Moves the puck, competitive, long, can play on both specialty teams.

“Bringing him into the in the fold, we were excited about that.”

Hakanpaa, 32, had two goals and 12 points in 64 games with Dallas last season.

The Leafs also got to work on their crease combination, extending goaltender Joseph Woll on a three-year, $10.98-million deal that begins in 2025-26.

Woll, who has dealt with a series of injuries throughout his career, went 12-11-1 last season with a .907 save percentage and a 2.94 goals-against average.

He was outstanding in winning Game 5 and Game 6 of Toronto’s first-round playoff series after the Leafs fell behind the Boston Bruins 3-1 to force Game 7 this spring.

But the 26-year-old hurt his back in the final seconds of Game 6 and was forced to miss the series clincher. Ilya Samsonov started the final, which Toronto lost 2-1 in overtime.

The Leafs also added Anthony Stoloarz on a two-year, $5-million contract from the Panthers and re-signed Matt Murray – another injury-prone netminder – for one season at $875,000 on Monday.

Woll, who was selected 62nd overall at the 2016 draft, owns a 21-13-1 record with one shutout, a .912 save percentage and a 2.76 GAA in 36 career regular-season games.

He’s 3-2 in the playoffs in seven appearances, sporting a .933 save percentage and a 1.78 GAA.

Toronto made two moves Sunday, re-signing winger Max Domi and defenceman Timothy Liljegren, but lost forward Tyler Bertuzzi to the Chicago Blackhawks in free agency Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2024.

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