When new Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM Brad Treliving signed Ryan Reaves to a three-year contract, a lot of people – me included – wondered why. The news came that the signing was a way that Treliving could make an impact on what was called a “quiet” Maple Leafs’ locker room.

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What Does Reaves Bring to the Team?

Reaves three-year contract, worth $1.35 million AAV, was a puzzler. Reaves is known for his physical style of play, but he’s also 36 years old and will be 37 at midseason. He’s slower and he won’t play a ton of minutes. The signing just seemed like an unconventional team addition in an era where the NHL game is evolving toward speed and skill.

So, what does Reaves’ presence bring to the team? There must be more than just his on-ice performance for the salary figure and the three years of the term that were on the contract.

Reaves Value Goes Beyond What He Brings to the Ice

It would seem that Reaves’ value goes beyond his statistics and his role as an enforcer. If what I’m reading is correct, this perplexing contract (at least at first glance) might make more sense in terms of his off-ice contributions.

Here’s what I hear and read about Reaves’ reputation. First, he’s a positive and well-liked presence in the dressing room. If that’s true, and there’s no reason to doubt it, his impact could be significant in a team environment where camaraderie, chemistry, and leadership are crucial.

How the Maple Leafs’ Team Can Benefit from Reaves’ Influence

The Maple Leafs can benefit from Reaves’ influence in terms of his experience, work ethic, and approach to the game. From what I know from my own academic work, the culture of an organization is key to creating organizational success. And, it would seem that Reaves can have a positive effect on the team’s culture.

Reaves is an older and experienced player, who can offer guidance to younger players and help foster a winning mentality. Positive mentorship and leadership is invaluable to a team looking to achieve success.

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That said, Reaves Does Bring Toughness and Grit to the Team

One reason for bringing Reaves to the team is to address the team’s need for toughness and grit. Regardless of the speed of the NHL game, there’s still some importance to physicality and tenacity. That’s especially true during the postseason.

Reaves has a reputation for standing up for his teammates. As a result, he helps create a sense of security for other players on the ice. The mere fact that he’s always in the background goes a long way toward dissuading opponents from taking liberties. As a result, the team’s stars – and there are many of them – have a safer space in which to function.

In that way, Reaves controls the game for his teammates.

Can Reaves Improve the Entire Team’s Toughness?

It would make sense that Reaves’ primary goal would be to ignite a spark that builds the team’s toughness, grit, and spirit. If he can accomplish this, his lack of footspeed and limited offensive contributions will be secondary concerns. Providing a physical presence, protecting his teammates, and energizing the dressing room could ripple into an impact on the team’s overall performance.

As an enforcer, Reaves’ role is less impactful. The fact is that enforcers are becoming rarer. However, players who contribute both on and off the ice are highly valued. Reaves’ ability to shape his game to the needs of the team and the changing way hockey is played makes him a valuable asset to the Maple Leafs.

The Bottom Line

Reaves’ contract seems unconventional. However, if Treliving is correct that his value to the Maple Leafs goes beyond the numbers on paper, then he will be worth the expense and the salary-cap space he takes.

His off-ice impact, leadership, and ability to build the team’s physicality and camaraderie could have effects on the team’s success. If Reaves can invigorate the Maple Leafs’ spirit and toughness as Treliving intends, his contract could prove to be a wise investment for the organization.

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