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Duluth's Toninato awaits NHL free agency

At midnight Wednesday, Duluth native Dominic Toninato is a free man.

The Duluth East and Minnesota Duluth standout who was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft will become a free agent at that time and can sign with any NHL franchise he chooses.

Toninato is coming off a career-best senior season with the Bulldogs that saw him score 16 goals and 13 assists while captaining the team to an NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship and an appearance in the NCAA championship game at the Frozen Four in Chicago.

After negotiations broke down with Toronto, Toninato said he's now looking for the best opportunity in the NHL to prove himself as a player.

"The first few years you just want to get your feet wet and just go wherever you have the best opportunity of getting a chance," Toninato said. "I want to get a chance to show myself. That's what we've been looking at all summer and that's who we'll go with."

The Leafs drafted Toninato 126th overall in 2012 after he led the Greyhounds to a 29-2 record and a fifth-place finish at the Class AA state tournament via 30 goals and 37 assists. He went on to post 32 goals and 44 assists the next year with the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League and 91 total points in four seasons with the Bulldogs.

Per the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHL Players Association, teams retain the right to a draft pick who went on to play college through Aug. 15 after their senior season.

The Leafs offered Toninato a two-way entry-level NHL contract at the conclusion of last season, but Toninato elected to return for his senior season at UMD. Between then and now, the rebuilding Leafs went on a signing spree — which included UMD sophomore goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo in 2016 — that has left the organization up against the maximum of 50 NHL contracts and nearly $4 million over the salary cap.

This offseason, the Leafs only had an American Hockey League deal waiting for Toninato, which he turned down because it limits his ability to earn a shot to play in the NHL in 2017-18. Toninato informed the Leafs in early July he would not be signing with the organization and the Leafs have since given Toninato and his agent Neil Sheehy permission to speak with other teams.

Sheehy, an International Falls native with the Minneapolis-based I-C-E Hockey Agency, said there will be a market for Toninato when he becomes a free agent this week.

"There's been plenty of interest," Sheehy said. "Dom will land on his feet and be in a real good place to play. I have no concerns whatsoever."

UMD Class of 2017

Where are they now?

Name Draft status Team (League)

Dominic Toninato 2012, Toronto unsigned

Carson Soucy 2013, Minnesota Minnesota Wild (NHL)

Alex Iafallo undrafted L.A. Kings (NHL)

Brenden Kotyk undrafted Hartford Wolfpack (AHL)

Willie Raskob undrafted Worcester Railers (ECHL)

Kyle Osterberg undrafted Sparta Sarpsborg (Norway)

Dan Molenaar undrafted retired

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

(218) 723-5317
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