With each passing day the Leafs get one step closer to their final roster. And with each passing day Leafs fans get one step closer to saying, “really, is that the best they could do? I mean we’re rebuilding but wow.”
A side effect of this evolution is that means eventually the Leafs will have to deal with the issue of waivers and at minimum at least one player will be taking a ride on the waiver wire in the coming weeks. Here’s a brief look at how that’s likely to play out.
First off, strictly looking at the Leafs who need to clear waivers, who are presently under contract, this is your lineup.
The thing that should immediately stand out is that there are 24 names there when there’s a 23 man maximum. Anyone who says the first cut is the hardest probably never managed the Toronto Maple Leafs, because you’ve got two very solid options right off the hop.
Matt Frattin is someone who may have been in the plans of the Nonis regime but certainly is short on fans in the new one. Having spent the entire season with the Marlies last year, it seems he’s probably going to do the same this year as he’s not someone likely to be claimed, especially if sent down early in the waivers process.
The other and arguably better option for demotion is Stephane Robidas. Robidas is really at the point where retirement is the best option for him, but with his $3M/yr salary he’s likely an easy player to send to the Marlies without risking anyone putting in a claim (oh why won’t they put in a claim.)
Now that basically gets the Leafs to a 22 man roster, but with Glencross, Boyes, Setoguchi, and Fraser on pro tryouts, it seems there’s a strong possibility that some of these guys could wind up in the NHL. Now there’s no way that Mark Fraser is one of those players, so we’ll scratch that idea, and Setoguchi might be better suited for an AHL deal as well, but Glencross and Boyes are legitimate upgrades to the Leafs lineup and should probably make the team. Since this puts the Leafs back up to 24 players on the roster, it’s time to consider the next viable options.
T.J. Brennan is a favourite of fans looking for another puck moving defenseman in the Leafs lineup, and with Robidas already sent down, he would leave the Leafs with only six defensemen, so right now he seems pretty safe to stick around.
Nick Spaling might be the next contestant on who gets waived. He’s a decent enough player, but the fact that he earns $2.2M makes him probably the easiest player to waive and not actually lose to waivers. In the Lamoriello era where players are treated strictly as commodities, it seems this could be the case.
After Spaling, it becomes about the other potential bubble forwards. Marc Arcobello and Richard Panik might be players who don’t want to lose for nothing, but it’s likely that you accept that risk if Glencross or Boyes have earned their spot.
There’s also the small matter of younger players actually earning their spot on the Leafs. William Nylander might already be the most talented forward in the organization, and if that is painfully clear it might be difficult to exclude him from the Leafs lineup. Older prospects like Casey Bailey, Zach Hyman, and Nikita Soshnikov of relative wild cards at this point, but both Stuart Percy and Scott Harrington could easily make the case for starting the season on the Leafs blue line and, in that case, have we circled around to considering the possibility of putting Hunwick or Marincin on waivers?
Essentially what I’m getting at here is that it seems likely that the Leafs will put at least three players to waivers, and likely at least one of them we’ll be disappointed to see it happen, that is of course unless a trade changes circumstances or the Leafs are less excited about their PTO players than the rest of us are.
History has shown that the sneaking players down fairly early in the waivers process works best as teams are either still trying to figure out their own situation and not considering adding other players to the mix or they are holding out hope that better players may become available the closer the league gets to opening night.
Friday, September 25th is the first day that players can be put on waivers, as the CBA dictates that waivers begin 12 days before the start of the season, and with AHL camps opening on the 29th it is likely the best bet for utilizing waivers is during that time. Players are then free and clear for the next 30 days or 10 NHL games before they need to clear waivers again, and in that time they can be assigned where ever the team would like (players can stay in camp and don’t necessarily need to immediately report to the Marlies).
With that in mind, maybe it’s best to take care of the safe ones right away, and deal with the rest as they come up, as it will give the Leafs options throughout the remainder of camp and potentially some flexibility to add other team’s waived players as well.