On February 9, 2016, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a massive nine player trade with the Ottawa Senators, sending captain Dion Phaneuf among others to the Canadian capital. A trade motivated by the cap, the Leafs received three players from Ottawa with less than desirable contracts.
Entering the 2017-18 season, only one of the three remain. Jared Cowen was bought out and Milan Michalek is currently an unrestricted free agent. Returning this off-season to Toronto was Colin Greening, the only player other than prospect Tobias Lindberg to receive much ice-time in the Leafs organization that was involved in the trade.
Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Preview, 50-in-50: Colin Greening
Although the Toronto Marlies had were loaded up front, the concern heading into the season was down the middle. The depth on the wings was incredible, but the centres on the team were not up to the same standard.
After clearing waivers, the $2.625-million left winger was converted to centre, a position which Greening has played in the past. Unlike fellow veterans Michalek and Brooks Laich, Colin Greening was comfortable playing in the minors and had a steady position in the lineup.
Slotting anywhere from the first to the fourth line, Greening’s versatility was a major help to the Marlies in 2016-17. A defensively responsible player, Greening complemented offensively dynamic wingers such as Brendan Leipsic, Trevor Moore, and Dmytro Timashov throughout the season.
Embracing the Centre Position
Greening’s role on the team became even more important after the trade deadline when the Marlies’ first line centre, Byron Froese, was packaged into the Brian Boyle deal. By the time the Calder Cup Playoffs came around, Greening and Frederik Gauthier were the only two centres remaining from the beginning of the season. Although Sergey Kalinin and Cal O’Reilly were injected into the lineup, Colin Greening found himself in the top six by the end of the year.
In the postseason, Greening started the first round with paired with Timashov, helping the Marlies to a 3-1 series victory over the Albany Devils. As the playoffs progressed, Greening moved into the top line spot alongside the Marlies’ best scorer in Leipsic. Unfortunately, the Marlies were eliminated by the Syracuse Crunch in seven games, ending their pursuit of the Calder Cup.
Colin Greening’s stats on the year do not jump out at all. In 69 games, the 31-year old scored 10 goals and 24 points. In the playoffs, he registered just four points in 11 games. His role was more than just scoring, however. His veteran presence in the lineup was vital, as Greening was the lone 30-plus player to have a regular role. Captain Andrew Campbell was the only other veteran to receive consistent ice-time, while Rich Clune was a big influence in the locker room but only played 37 games.
Profile (via EliteProspects)
Weight: 209 lbs
NHL Draft: Seventh Round, 204th Overall in 2005 by Ottawa
Contract (via CapFriendly)
After making $3.2 million in base salary in 2017, Colin Greening will make $750,000 this upcoming season. A one year, one-way deal, Greening will make the same amount in the AHL as he would if he were playing in the NHL. The contract is completely buriable so it does not affect the Leafs when he is inevitably sent down. Toronto likely gave Greening a one-way contract to persuade him to return to the Marlies.
Colin Greening is practically guaranteed to return to the Toronto Marlies in 2017-18. The difference next year could be the letter on his chest. After the departure of Andrew Campbell, Greening is one of the top candidates for the captaincy.
With Adam Brooks and Chris Mueller entered into the lineup, Greening can return back to the bottom six. With the talent throughout the lineup, it is likely that Greening can reach the 24 point total from last year.
Greening is not a player many Leafs fans will think about in 2017-18. However, he is a quietly vital component in the Toronto organization for player development. Colin Greening’s NHL career is likely done, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help the next generation of Leafs.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images