Leafs extend Marshall, shore up defence

The Toronto Maple Leafs have extended defenceman Kevin Marshall, a signing that may have gone under the radar in Leaf Land, but one that was necessary.

A second round draft pick by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007, Marshall hasn’t yet worked his way out of the AHL and will likely continue to get seasoning with the AHL’s Marlies this coming season. In 24 games with the Marlies last season after being acquired from the Washington Capitals organization, Marshall had one goal and seven assists.

What Marshall, 24, brings to the roster is a history of winning. While a member of the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the QMJHL, Marshall hoisted the QMJHL Championship. In addition, Marshall was a member of the 2005-06 Canadian U17 team, winning a gold medal with the squad.

While not the flashiest defenceman, Marshall’s reliable and can log a lot of minutes while being relied upon for some leadership in the room. A former captain of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, Marshall makes an effective addition to the Marlies without the Leafs having to go out looking.

In 283 career regular season AHL games, Marshall has nine goals, 31 assists, and 403 PIM.

Pens lose one, add four on two-way deals

The Pittsburgh Penguins lost a part of their farm club’s top-six, but made up for it by signing four forwards to contracts.

Trevor Smith, a 28-year-old from Ottawa, Ont., had spent the last year as an alternate captain on the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, took advantage of his free agency and signed on with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Smith, who made his pro-debut in 2006-07 as an undrafted free agent out of the NCAA’s University of New Hampshire, has spent parts of the last six seasons in the AHL. While never an elite AHL talent, Smith has parlayed his opportunities with AHL clubs into a full-time spot in 2008-09, when he played 76 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and posted 30 goals and 32 assists. Though he’s moved around quite a bit — Smith has played for Bridgeport, Syracuse, Springfield, Norfolk, and Wilkes-Barre — he’s been effective in every setting, and was given the alternate captaincy in Wilkes-Barre last season.

With the loss of Smith, the Penguins looked to fill some spots in their lineup, and did so by inking Nick Drazenovic, Bobby Farnham, and Chris Conner, all to one-year, two-way deals, and Andrew Ebbett to a two-year, two-way deal.

The biggest name of the four, Ebbett, has spent the last two seasons with the Canucks organization, but has seen his career settle into the role of transition player between the AHL and NHL. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Senators in 2006, Ebbett has since moved organizations on nearly a year-to-years basis. Since signing with Ottawa in ’06, Ebbett has played for Anaheim, Chicago, Minnesota, Phoenix, and Vancouver. In 191 NHL games, Ebbett has put up 64 points (25-39), but he’s been effective at an incredible level in the AHL. Ebbett’s 236 points (76-160) over 247 games puts him in elite AHL territory, and he is a game breaker at the minor level.

Conner, who spent time in the Penguins organization from 2009-2011, but left to sign on with the Detroit Red Wings in the offseason of 2011. In his first stint with the Pens, Conner caught on with the big club, spending 60 games in the NHL in 2010-11, where he put up 16 points in a bottom six role. Conner will likely split time between the farm and the big club.



Longtime Marlie Hamilton heads to OKC

Ryan Hamilton spent five years in Marlies blue-and-white, but much like Will Acton, he’s following Dallas Eakins to the Oil.

Hamilton, who was the Marlies captain for the last two years, has signed a two-year deal with the Oilers.

At 28, Hamilton has been primarily an AHL player. In seven seasons as a pro, Hamilton has only suited up for 14 pro games, and spent over 450 games in the minors. Over 421 regular season games spread across the Marlies and Houston Aeros, Hamilton has helped out offensively to the tune of 233 points (129-104). Though his offensive numbers aren’t staggering, Hamilton brings good size — he stands 6’2″ and weighs nearly 220 lbs. — and leadership to the farm. He won’t challenge for any scoring titles, but Hamilton is the kind of player most minor league clubs would love to have — size, skill, and a steady veteran presence.

Hamilton signed with the Minnesota Wild in 2006 as an undrafted free agent, but was later shipped to Toronto in exchange for Robbie Earl. After a series of one-year deals with the Leafs, it’s nice to see the Oshawa, Ont. product get some job security.

Like Acton, Hamilton had spent a few seasons under the tutelage of Dallas Eakins, and it’d be interesting to know how much Eakins’ signing on in Edmonton influenced the two signings.


Acton finds home in Edmonton

A familiar face from the Toronto Marlies will be in new digs next season, as Will Acton has signed a two-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers.

Acton, a native of Stouffville, Ont., will be entering his third professional season after a four-year stint at the NCAA’s Lake Superior State.

Acton, who played 67 games in each of the last two seasons with the Marlies, was signed as undrafted free agent by the Leafs farm club. In those 134 games, Acton has scored 15 goals and added 20 assists. In all likelihood, Acton will begin the season in Oklahoma City, but could see some action in Edmonton. By signing with the Oilers, he will be reunited with former Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins.


Spott speaks about Marlies gig

Steve Spott is already getting his first tastes of the Toronto media.

Yesterday afternoon the newly appointed Marlies head coach joined Brian Hayes and Jeff O’Neill on TSN 1050’s Leafs Lunch to talk about leaving the Kitchener Rangers, joining the Maple Leafs organization, and much more.

On leaving his GM/head coaching duties behind:

It’s not easy when you have to move. The situation here, in Kitchener, is one that it really is a community governed hockey club and everywhere you go in the city it’s a special place to be. It’s very much like an NCAA environment as you guys alluded to where the coach of the team… very rarely does he have to pay for a cup of coffee. So, it’s a neat place. To leave here now is bittersweet, but having the opportunity with Dave Nonis, Dave Poulin, Claude Loiselle, Jim Hughes, you can tell that the organization is in great standing in Toronto, and I’m just excited for the plan that they have for the Marlies.

On his style, and whether he’ll have to adjust

I think you do. Fortunately for me . . . I know some of the kids that are there, so I’ll definitely take time over the next couple of weeks to get in touch with those guys. I’ll talk to Dallas today to try and get information on what makes those guys tick. Ultimately, I think talking to Dave and Dave, they want to get a little bit younger with the Marlies now and make it a pure development team, and you may not see as many of the American Hockey League veterans as you’ve seen in Toronto in the past.

You can listen to the full interview on the TSN 1050 website here.

Spott named Marlies bench boss

Steve Spott is making the jump from the juniors to the AHL.

Spott, 45, has spent the last ten seasons behind the bench of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, but will be leaving to fill the hole left by Dallas Eakins. Eakins, long said to be an NHL coach in waiting, left the Marlies earlier this off-season to fill the  head coaching position for the Edmonton Oilers.

The news was confirmed earlier today by TSN’s Darren Dreger, and Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported that Spott had previously met with Maple Leafs brass in New Jersey during the draft weekend.

Spott steps down from his post as both head coach and general manager of the Kitchener Rangers, where he lead the team to a two conference finals appearances, and won one OHL Championship as an assistant coach. Spott also coached Team Canada in the 2013 IIHF World U20 Championship, where his Canadian squad was undefeated in the round robin before losing the bronze medal game to Russia.