The Maple Leafs have won six of their last seven games and look to be firing on all cylinders. While the Maple Leafs have jumped back up into a respective fifth place in the Eastern conference their AHL counterparts find themselves atop their division. This is due in large part to the great play of TJ Brennan.
One of the biggest reasons for the Marlies success has been the great play of defenceman T.J. Brennan. Brennan finds himself fifth in the league in scoring and number one amongst defencemen with 40 points in 39 games. So with 40 points in 39 games one must think a call up to the Leafs could be in order.
Brennan was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres 31st overall in the second round in 2007. However, he spent most of his time with the Rochester Americans and played just 21 games with the Sabres between 2011-2013 recording just two goals. Halfway through last season he was moved to Florida where he played 19 games and put up two goals and nine points. Yet back in the American Hockey League Brennan racked up 35 points in 36 games with the Americans.
Brennan may not have hit his stride at the NHL level yet, but he has proven that at the AHL level he has tremendous offensive upside. Brennan has only seen 40 games in the NHL and has recorded 11 points which if you consider him as a rookie, since he hasn’t seen a full season is not too bad.
The problem that might stop Brennan from seeing time with the Leafs in the near future is the fact that they seem to have a plethora of young offensive defencemen. With the likes of Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner as well as Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson he is likely not going to see time unless the Leafs suffer a few injuries down the line.
Randy Carlyle and the Leafs have been looking to add physicality to their back end and for a team who doesn’t have too many players that fit that criteria, bringing in a defenceman whose biggest strength is offence, means the odds might be against Brennan. Just this month the Maple Leafs sent veteran defenceman John-Michael Liles to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for fellow defenceman Tim Gleason. This trade was made to help bring a more defensive presence to the Leafs’ back end.
However, what might give Brennan a glimmer of hope is the fact that come next year Toronto will be faced with 10 free agents and with just $20 million dollars to sign them. Among these 10 free agents will be unrestricted free agents Paul Ranger and Mark Fraser and restricted free agents Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner.
Gardiner is in the last year of his contract and currently makes $875,000 and will likely be looking for a pay increase, while Franson is making $2,000,000 and after a lengthy contract dispute last year will likely also be looking for a raise.
Brennan on the other hand will also be a restricted free agent, but after only making $600,000 this season he may be a player that the Leafs could sign for a bargain and if he could bring his same offensive skill to the Leafs could be a great fit.
Brennan will likely be named to the AHL All-Star Game to be held on the February 11th-12th weekend and so far looks to be a shoe in as the AHL’s top defenceman. He may not see time with the big club this season, but depending on the health of the Leafs’ blue line and how this off-season goes for Dave Nonis, Brennan may still have a bright future in the NHL.
Follow me on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman