TORONTO– Signing forward Mike Zigomanis to an AHL contract, instead of an NHL two-way contract, was a decision based on numbers that the Toronto Maple Leafs can’t control.
The 31-year-old Zigomanis is coming off a season where he led all Marlies in scoring with 19 goals and 61 points in 68 games. However, it wasn’t enough for him to secure an NHL deal for the upcoming season because NHL teams are restricted to a limit of how many contracts they can have and Toronto preferred to use one of their NHL contracts on a younger player.
“50 contracts make it very difficult to sign and develop your total pool of players,” said Leafs VP of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin. “50’s your limit. It’s not enough to develop the way you want to develop. You need some AHL contracts.”
Zigomanis, a Toronto native, cannot play again in the NHL while under an AHL contract, but if getting back with the big club is his ultimate goal it is still obtainable through an upgrade.
“The contract can be flipped to an NHL contract should the situation dictate it,” said Poulin.
Currently, the Leafs have 48 players under contract and defenceman Cody Franson and goaltender Ben Scrivens still haven’t re-signed. With the Leafs near their maximum, it is unlikely Zigomanis’ contract will change during the season.
Last season, Zigomanis was the seventh highest paid player in the AHL, on a two-way contract, making $250 000 to suit up with the Marlies. Being an AHL deal, his salary for this season won’t be listed, and Poulin wouldn’t disclose an exact figure, however he did say it was a fair deal for the 11-year-veteran.
“Suffice it to say it is at a considerable premium,” he said. “He is a very important part of our organization.”
Currently listed on Cap Geek as the AHL’s top-paid player is Toronto’s latest acquisition Keith Aucoin.
The 33-year-old Aucoin signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Leafs in July and if he ends up with the Marlies he will make $350 000.
Despite being the AHL’s fourth all-time leading scorer, Aucoin has also suited up in 102 NHL games, including 27 last year with the Washington Capitals, and will be given a chance to make the Leafs roster in the fall.
“This will, as with all of our players, be up to the play of the individual and how that fits into the organization,” said Poulin about Aucoin’s chance of playing at the Air Canada Centre instead of the Ricoh Coliseum. “Keith is a proven top AHL player, but has also contributed timely play at the NHL level.”
While nothing is set in stone until after training camp, the Marlies could possess the top one-two centreman combo in the entire AHL next season with Zigomanis and Aucoin.
Since 2008, Zigomanis has scored 121 points in 139 contests for the Marlies while Aucoin has 344 points in only 238 games with the Capitals’ affiliate the Hershey Bears.