Carter Ashton has accepted his qualifying offer and will return to the Toronto Maple Leafs next season on a one-year, two-way contract for $850,000. The signing was broken by Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports on twitter.
Ashton has played 47 NHL games for the Leafs, scoring only three points and adding 32 penalty minutes. The 6’3″, 215 lbs power forward has had far more success with the Toronto Marlies, where he’s got 29 goals and 45 points in 84 games.
The former first round pick will finally get a shot to prove he belongs in the NHL this year, as he should challenge for the fourth line right winger role. While he falls behind Phil Kessel, David Clarkson and Matt Frattin on the depth chart, the only other right winger who could push him out of a spot would be Colton Orr, or Petri Kontiola if he gets moved to the wing.
While Ashton’s offence is unproven at the NHL level, he’s shown a willingness to drop the gloves, which may be the key to him locking in the fourth line role. His offensive abilities are better than Orr’s and at 23-years-old, Ashton has far more upside and is cheaper than Orr’s $925,000.
With the signing of Ashton, the Maple Leafs now only have the RFA contracts of Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner, James Reimer and Peter Holland to worry about at the NHL level and under $11-million to get those players signed. Last season those four cost the Leafs $5.545-million but Franson and Gardiner are sure to get raises and Reimer may go through salary arbitration, which would likely see him get a raise as well.
UPDATE: James Mirtle and Jonas Siegel have reported that Peter Holland has re-signed with the Maple Leafs for a two-year, one-way deal. Anthony Petrielli has the specifics.
The one-way deal means GM Dave Nonis feels Holland is far more likely to make the team in some capacity than Ashton, who can be sent down at a lower salary in the AHL.