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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski - USA Today

Leafs could have a 26 player roster with a 4 player taxi squad

While it seems like we have a potential start date to the season, and a willingness from both the NHL and the NHLPA to get underway, there are still a number of details that need to be figured out, including the size of the NHL rosters.

Now the idea of a 26 player roster sounds nice, and beneficial for the Leafs, and having a four player taxi squad as well helps a team with plenty of depth, but it raises a few more questions.

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How are teams going to fit 26 players into the salary cap?

The Taxi squad aspect is explained a bit clearer in Frank Seravalli’s tweet, but even then there is the question of whether moving a player from the roster to the taxi squad would result in the player requiring waivers.

As for the additional roster players, well, if the Leafs are cap compliant (according to PuckPedia) at a 21 player roster, adding five additional players would be a challenge if the cap isn’t adjusted.

Now, if we’re going to speculate on what the NHL might offer as additional salary resources, I’d assume the threshold for burying salary in the NHL might be the best means of determining what each depth roster spot warrants in salary cap increasing. Teams can bury $1,075,000 of salary without penalty, so if the NHL is allotting 3 additional depth spaces, perhaps increasing the salary cap by $3.225M would make sense.

That’s some wishful thinking on my part because it allows for the Leafs to maximize the space and comfortably get to a 26 player roster and 4 player taxi squad. For now we’ll go with wishful.

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What would a 26 player roster and 4 player taxi squad look like?

LW C RW LD RD G
Hyman Matthews Marner Rielly Brodie Andersen
Mikheyev Tavares Nylander Muzzin Holl Campbell
Robertson Kerfoot Simmonds Dermott Lehtonen Dell
Vesey Thornton Spezza Marincin Bogosian
Anderson Boyd Malgin
Engvall Barabanov Sandin Liljegren

Basically everyone who was receiving some consideration for being on the Leafs roster can be on it in this scenario. Engvall, Barabanov, Sandin, and Liljegren are all waiver exempt, so they would be the obvious choice for the taxi squad, although Barabanov not drawing a NHL salary seems like it could be source of contention.

There is also the issue of not having a 4th goaltender available, which might be something worthwhile, and if the Leafs want to go with Woll and Scott as the Marlies tandem, including Hutchinson on this list might be wise as well. The Leafs would still have an option to recall Hutchinson if needed and the fact that he’d be playing games in the AHL to keep fresh might make him even more useful.

As for the AHL…

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The Marlies playing a four team division, and only having three different opponents, at least to start the AHL season seems strange, but given the main goal for the players is to develop and be ready for callups, this will certainly be a reasonable alternative.

In addition to Hutchinson, the Marlies will have players like Adam Brooks, Nic Petan, Kenny Agostino, Teemu Kivihalme, and Calle Rosen that are all capable of serviceable callups for the Leafs in the 30 player roster is exhausted. (The Leafs used 37 players last year in a non-Pandemic season.)

Details will still need to emerge for all of this to make complete sense, but for now we’ll just enjoy the fact that 2021 should be starting off on the right note.

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