The Leafs have activated Auston Matthews from the Injured Reserve today which has put the Leafs back at the maximum 23 roster spots and moves Freddie Gauthier up to the press box to hang with Martin Marincin and Justin Holl. All of this is fine and really and no one is going to shed a tear over Gauthier sitting in favour of Auston Matthews.
Where this starts to get interesting is with the upcoming William Nylander deadline. After the game against the Sharks tonight the Leafs will need to clear a roster spot to get Willie into the lineup, assuming he’s been signed.
The Leafs can buy themselves so time in the short term through their waivers exempt players, but Kasperi Kapanen, Par Lindholm, Igor Ozhiganov, and Travis Dermott are all lineup regulars, and with the exception of possibly Par Lindholm it’s hard to imagine that any of them would be Marlies bound.
That brings us to the press box crowd. Freddie Gauthier, Justin Holl, and Martin Marincin are the current occupants of the press box, and it seems most likely that one of these players will be on the way out.
Gauthier has seen regular work since Auston Matthews has been hurt, and it’s hard to imagine that the Leafs don’t want to carry an extra center if possible.
Martin Marincin has been a Dubas favourite, and of the two options he’s been presented with, Mike Babcock seems to lean towards Marincin as his 7th defenseman more than Holl, who has barely seen any time in the lineup at all.
The appeal of Holl is that he’s a mystery box. He might be really good, but we haven’t seen much of him yet. The catch being that if Mike Babcock doesn’t want to play him, the mystery box factor starts to lose its appeal and he becomes a bit more of a burden taking up a roster spot despite the coach having no interest in using him. As a fan of Holl, I’m reluctant to give up on him, but at this point it’s a decision I’d understand, but not agree with.
Expanding the options to include the guys who are playing, some consideration needs to be given to cutting ties with a winger. Tyler Ennis and Josh Leivo seem to be at the bottom of the pecking order, and while Tyler Ennis seems like more obvious choice here, Mike Babcock’s history with Josh Leivo may come into play here. If you felt like being bold, you could also make a case for Connor Brown being the odd man out, and with a bit more salary, he might be more capable of clearing waivers too.
The reality is that what is probably the preferred option for the Leafs is to try to find a way to dump one of these players via trade for a non-roster player return, but understandably we’re unlikely to see a trade and someone is going on waivers if Nylander is returning.
So What Would You Do?
I know what my answer is and I’m putting Gauthier on waivers without thinking twice, but this isn’t about me. Tell me what you would do.