After playing his whole career without making the NHL playoffs, Ron Hainsey joined the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline last season, winning his first Stanley Cup. In an attempt to address their needs at defence, the Maple Leafs signed the battle hardened defenseman to a two-year deal this off-season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Preview, 50-in-50: Ron Hainsey
Hainsey’s career in the NHL has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. It started out in Montreal after being selected in the first round of the 2000 NHL draft. But with high draft picks come with high expectations.
After spending his first couple of seasons splitting time between Montreal and the Hamilton Bulldogs, Hainsey had failed to leave a lasting impression on the fans or the organization.
He was claimed off waivers in 2005 by the Columbus Blue Jackets when his potential of becoming a top four defenseman began to show. He found an offensive touch, leading the Jackets defenseman in scoring in the 2007 and 2008 notching a combined 66 points.
The Pay Day
Hainsey was able to parlay his production in Columbus into a five-year, $22.5 million deal with the Atlanta Thrashers. Much to the chagrin of the Thrashers, his 34 points in 2006-07 would be the most he would notch in a season for Atlanta.
He instead turned to his defensive game, leading the team in blocked shots in the following two seasons. The journeyman was not finished there though. After riding out the duration of his contract with the Winnipeg Jets, Hainsey joined the Carolina Hurricanes in 2014, signing a three year, $8.5-million contract with the Canes.
The next three years in Carolina were fairly nondescript for Hainsey. In 2017, the veteran finally got his chance. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were looking to add depth at defence for a cup run.
It was the first time in fourteen NHL seasons that he would be on a team to make the Stanley Cup playoffs. Hainsey played 72 combined games for Carolina and Pittsburgh before beginning the playoffs, scoring 17 points in that time.
Hainsey dressed in 25 games for the Pens, notching two goals and six assists, en route to the Pens second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Profile (via EliteProspects)
NHL Draft: First Round, 13th Overall in 2000 by Montreal
Contract (via CapFriendly)
Signed on July 1st of this year, Hainsey’s contract is worth $6 million over two years for a cap hit of $3 million.
He was paid a $2 million signing bonus upon signing the contract and will make a base salary of $1.6 million this year. The following season, Hainsey will not receive a signing bonus, while he will make $2.4 million in base salary.
Ron Hainsey also carries a 15 team no trade clause, though it is unlikely that it will become an issue for the Maple Leafs.
Hainsey has an opportunity to help shore up a Toronto defence that has been the source of much scrutiny over the last few seasons.
Although the group took a step forward last season, the defensive core is the area which needs the most improvement if the team is to make a deep run into the playoffs.
The addition of Hainsey adds a veteran presence to a group which is lacking NHL experience. With the departure of Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick, Mike Babcock will look to lean more on Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, and Nikita Zaitsev in the defensive zone.
Hainsey is a player with the ability to eat up some of those minutes as well. With a big left handed shot from the point, he could prove himself to be a mainstay in the Leafs lineup, especially after the inconsistent play of players such as Connor Carrick and Martin Marincin last season.
Coming off a Stanley Cup win, Hainsey should also be able to contribute a winning culture and attitude to the organization. This sort of leadership should mesh well with the message Mike Babcock and Brendan Shanahan are looking to impart on the team.
Expect Hainsey to play in the top six on his off side, a position he played with Pittsburgh in the postseason. Babcock has suggested he will start with Morgan Rielly, though that could easily change come training camp.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images