Defenseman Roman Polak signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Financial terms were not released.
Polak, 30, is the definition of a stay-at-home defenseman. He's never had more than five goals or 21 points in a season; his job is to keep the opposition off the scoreboard. Polak has done that well enough to spend 10 seasons in the NHL after being taken by the St. Louis Blues in the sixth round (No. 180) of the 2004 NHL Draft. He finished the 2015-16 season with the San Jose Sharks after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs Feb. 22.
The native of the Czech Republic fits best on a team like the Sharks that plays a heavy game, allowing him to use his size in front of the net to help keep the slot clear. However, he's not a great skater, and his limitations were exposed during the Stanley Cup Final, when the Pittsburgh Penguins took advantage of his lack of speed. Polak and partner Brenden Dillon were on the ice for Pittsburgh's first goal in Games 2, 3 and 4, and they were hemmed into their own zone for much of the time. Polak was scoreless with a minus-3 rating in the Sharks' six-game loss to Pittsburgh, and his bad pass led directly to the first goal in Game 2.
When Polak can limit his mistakes in his own end and consistently use his size to his advantage, he's a good third-pair defenseman. But in a league where the pace of play gets faster every year, his lack of speed and offensive ability mean he's never going to be much more than that. Still, in the right circumstance he can be a useful complementary player.