NHL Free Agency 2012: What McClement Signing Means for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Jon Reid@@JonReidCSMCorrespondent IIJuly 2, 2012

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 02:  Jay McClement #16 of the Colorado Avalanche takes a shot against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on February 2, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The first day of 2012 free agency has come and gone, with very few noteworthy signings taking place.

The same held true in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs made two minor moves signing virtually unknown defenseman Mike Kostka and center Jay McClement.

The signing of McClement had many fans scratching their heads, with the Leafs already possessing bottom-six centers in David Steckel, Matthew Lombardi and Tim Connolly.

After taking a second look at the signing, however, scooping up McClement for just $1.5 million per season for the next two years seems like a savvy move, providing it leads to a trade or two down the road.

After all McClement is a much more suitable third or fourth line center than both Lombardi and Connolly and comes at a much cheaper rate.

Leafs writer Mike Ulmer also provided these tidbits on twitter yesterday about McClement


McClement has been an assistant captain over 4 years. Seems a solid if unsexy addition.

— Mike Ulmer (@mulmer) July 1, 2012



Signee centre Jay McClement should help Leafs pk. Third among league forwards in pk ice time per game 3:06.

— Mike Ulmer (@mulmer) July 1, 2012

A veteran locker room presence that specializes in killing penalties?

Sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

While the signing does not come close to satisfying the needs of a No. 1 goaltender or top-line center, it is another valuable addition to this Toronto Maple Leafs squad.

Now the focus for Leafs GM Brian Burke must shift to finding a way to unload either Tim Connolly or Matthew Lombardi's contract on a team looking for a player to help them reach the salary floor who could have a turnaround kind of season.

That would open a permanent spot on the roster for McClement and give the Leafs another few million dollars worth of cap space to work with.

Should Burke manage to pull the trigger on one of those deals, the Jay McClement signing will look like a terrific move that addressed a few of the team's needs all while clearing cap space.

Until that happens, it looks like a fairly meaningless move.