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Waivers & You: A quick look at how waivers may shape the Leafs roster

In a post earlier this week about the first round of roster cuts I touched on the fact that waivers open earlier this week on September 20th (Friday) and no matter how you slice it, the Leafs are going to need to dump a number of players on waivers, the range of numbers we should be able to establish somewhere a bit later down in this post, but for now we’ll just say there will be a lot of Leafs on waivers and there’s a chance some of them won’t make it to the Marlies.

Yesterday Earl Schwartz discussed how the Marner contract locks the Leafs in at likely being only able to carry one reserve player, presumably a defenseman, but we’ll see how that shakes out. Given the proximity of the Marlies to the Leafs, carrying one at all is unnecessary half the time, and having one guy on the road is a comforting safety net. Not using the full 23 man roster is nothing new to the Leafs.

In camp, the Leafs are presently sitting at 54 players, 50 of who are active and 4 who are injured and likely don’t factor into this situation yet. The breakdown of the group is as follows

Requires Waivers Waivers Exempt Injured AHL Contract Pro Tryout
ABERG, Pontus BRACCO, Jeremy DERMOTT, Travis ARCHIBALD, Darren READ, Matt
AGOSTINO, Kenny BROOKS, Adam HYMAN, Zach BAPTISTE, Nicholas HALVERSON, Brandon
GAUDET, Tyler ENGVALL, Pierre WILSON, Garrett CLUNE, Rich NEUVIRTH, Michal
GAUTHIER, Frederik KORSHKOV, Egor WOLL, Joseph CONRAD, Colt (3)
JOHNSSON, Andreas MARCHMENT, Mason (4) ELYNUIK, Hudson
KAPANEN, Kasperi MIKHEYEV, Ilya RUBINS, Kristians
KERFOOT, Alexander DUSZAK, Joseph (6)
KOSSILA, Kalle HOLLOWELL, Mac
MARNER, Mitch KIVIHALME, Teemu
MATTHEWS, Auston LILJEGREN, Timothy
MOORE, Trevor LINDGREN, Jesper
NYLANDER, William SANDIN, Rasmus
PETAN, Nic (12)
SHORE, Nick
SPEZZA, Jason
TAVARES, John
TIMASHOV, Dmytro
BARRIE, Tyson
CECI, Cody
GRAVEL, Kevin
HARPUR, Ben
HOLL, Justin
MARINCIN, Martin
MUZZIN, Jake
RIELLY, Morgan
SCHMALTZ, Jordan
ANDERSEN, Frederik
HUTCHINSON, Michael
KASKISUO, Kasimir
(29)

So basically even if the Leafs are going entirely will a roster of players that requires waivers, we’re probably going to see eight players waived before the season starts. I’m sure Kasimir Kaskisuo has made his peace with being one of those names, as has Dmytro Timashov, who I was surprised to see that he requires waivers. Tyler Gaudet appears to be another lock for being sent down, and Kalle Kossila is certainly fighting an uphill battle as well, and I’m sure most people reading this are advocating for Ben Harpur as well, but that still leaves at least 3 names assuming the Leafs don’t going with any players from the other categories, that we’ll look at now.

The Pro Tryout Folks

The fact that Michal Neuvirth is hurt is a bit unfortunate for anyone wanting a backup goalie battle to be a preseason storyline. He may have injured himself out of consideration, and the job might be handed to Hutchinson, unless another team waives an intriguing netminder, which is my preferred route to go as long as we aren’t talking about Garret Sparks.

Halverson is likely just in camp to provide the Leafs with an extra goaltender since Woll is hurt, and at best will get a shot at the Growlers.

As for Matt Read, it’s too early to say what he is. He’s not a name that comes up in the day to day talk of camp and preseason might allow us to form opinions, but my early guess is that the pro tryout group won’t impact the Leafs waivers situation.

The AHL Contract Guys

Not completely different from the pro tryout crowd in that they’d need the Leafs to offer them a contract to stick around, and my own irrational love of Hudson Elynuik aside, that’s not happening for this crowd. They won’t impact the Leafs roster situation, they are here to help round out the roster for the early preseason games so Babcock can use split squads this week.

Injured Dudes

Eventually Hyman and Dermott will play a big part in sending a couple of players down through waivers, but hopefully at that point we’re in a situation where we’re fed up with the play of a couple of these guys and we won’t care. It would sting while we’re still optimistic about Jordan Schmaltz, Justin Holl, Kenny Agostino, and Pontus Aberg, but once that new toy shine wears off and we realize why they are bubble players, waivers won’t be a bitter pill to swallow.

Also Woll is waivers exempt, and Garret Wilson will be on waivers the second he’s healthy enough to rejoin the Marlies.

The real threat

The waivers exempt youngsters are the real threat to take some roster spots this year, and that’s probably the story worth watching. If Sandin and Liljegren can prove their ready, I’m not sure that tears will be shed on having to send Marincin and Holl packing. Additionally there is really no telling what the Leafs may have in Lindgren, Kivihalme and Duszak relative to the other bubble defensemen, and if they can impress it could make camp interesting as well.

Forward seems equally wide open as Bracco, Marchment, Brooks, and Engvall look to show they’ve evolved beyond their Marlies success and want to move up. While Brooks seems like a bit of a stretch in that group, and Marchment seems very role specific, Engvall and Bracco are interesting options for the Leafs.

Right now I’ve excluded Mac Hollowell and Egor Korshkov. Hollowell, who seems like the most likely to make a return to Marlies, but given his impressive year in junior last year, I don’t want to completely dismiss his abilities. Korshkov seems like a bit of a project, but potentially a short term one, and a late season call-up might be more of a reality for him. He too could surprise, but right now having an easier choice for a

Finally there’s Ilya Mikheyev, who I am quite comfortable with asserting as a Leaf to start the year. Mike Babcock doesn’t just pose with anyone at an Etobicoke gas station, and Russians don’t leave the KHL for the AHL. While a short AHL stint may be in the cards, I’m going to err on the side of he’s a Leaf barring a terrible preseason.

In short, we are probably going to see one guy from this group as a lock, but with the potential for more.

Who’s going to get waived?

Roster Locks Bubble Very Likely Waived
JOHNSSON, Andreas ABERG, Pontus GAUDET, Tyler
KAPANEN, Kasperi AGOSTINO, Kenny KOSSILA, Kalle
KERFOOT, Alexander GAUTHIER, Frederik TIMASHOV, Dmytro
MARNER, Mitch MOORE, Trevor KASKISUO, Kasimir
MATTHEWS, Auston PETAN, Nic (4)
NYLANDER, William SHORE, Nick
SPEZZA, Jason GRAVEL, Kevin
TAVARES, John HARPUR, Ben
BARRIE, Tyson HOLL, Justin
CECI, Cody MARINCIN, Martin
MUZZIN, Jake SCHMALTZ, Jordan
RIELLY, Morgan HUTCHINSON, Michael
ANDERSEN, Frederik (12)
(13)

So the Leafs have seven spots available. They have a backup goaltender position that looks to be Hutchinson’s to lose. They have 4 forward positions, one of which has Miheyev penciled into it, and another that is a temporary role as Hyman’s replacement. They have two defensive positions, that in a perfect world would go to Sandin and Liljegren, but I can fully appreciate the “no need to rush them” mentality. And they have one reserve spot that will go to player most likely to get claimed off of waivers that Kyle Dubas isn’t ready to lose yet, for sake of argument we’ll call that player Jordan Schmaltz.

Picking from who the bubble and who it would be difficult to see lost on waivers, Trevor Moore, Jordan Schmaltz, and Nick Shore are probably the names that standout the most, but the waivers situation seems far less dire when you look at all the similar players lumped together like that. It also helps to look back in the post to see the waivers exempt players they’d potentially be taking time away from on the Marlies, and how important their development is to the greater good of the Leafs.

Waivers Strategy

It will be interesting to see what approach Kyle Dubas takes on getting players down to the Marlies. Last year the Leafs waived Adam Cracknell, Chris Mueller, Josh Jooris, Jordan Subban, and Vincent LoVerde on September 30th and shockingly all of them cleared without issue. The following day Calvin Pickard and Curtis McElhinney were waived and both were claimed. I wouldn’t say this is an alarmist tale about goaltenders, but rather players who are perceived to add value to a NHL roster.

Marincin, Gravel, and Agostino all made their way down to the AHL last year, and might have success doing the same this year. Nick Shore was in the KHL last year, and if he doesn’t make the Leafs it might be seen as a sign he’s no longer a NHL player. The youth of players like Petan, Moore, and Gauthier will have some appeal. The right handed shots of Holl and Schmaltz might draw some attention, and Aberg as a depth scorer will certainly be a question mark.

Will the Leafs be better off with waiving their players early this year in hopes that other teams are still committed to seeing what will come of the players they have in their own camps, and possibly beat out injury replacement needs as well? Or will the Leafs be best with continuing with their tested strategy of waiting until the last minute and hope that other teams are set on reducing their roster rather than adding to it? Neither is fool proof and if there’s a player a team wants, they’ll take them.

It’s also worth noting that if the Leafs waive someone early in training camp that doesn’t mean they have to be cut from camp. That just eliminates the need to put them on waivers for the demotion later on if they still feel that’s the way to go.