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The Maple Leafs roster moves create a few more questions heading into the final cuts

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Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
8 months ago
Everything seemed pretty straight forward when it came to the Leafs roster. It looked like it was going to be a 20 player roster, Conor Timmins injury was going to allow them to be cap compliant and sign Noah Gregor, and while nice things were being said about Fraser Minten, it seemed like those were just going to be nice sentiments before returning him to junior. While the Leafs waivers decisions were very straight forward, the decision to trade Sam Lafferty has certainly thrown a few things into flux and raises a few last minute questions to ponder.

Does Nylander stay at centre?

With Fraser Minten now available as another centre option, does the Nylander experiment end here? I’d say it probably shouldn’t and as much as the Leafs can find out in the early days of the season what they have in both Nylander and Minten as NHL centres is a worthwhile endeavor. There is no certainty that Minten will be ready to stick and will require some sheltering, and after so aggressively committing to the Nylander experiment it seems worth seeing it through as well. It could be as simple as giving John Tavares a spin on the wing of either Minten or Nylander to get things started before landing on a final spot for all three.

What is the price going to be on Noah Gregor?

We still are unlikely to see a contract for Gregor until the Leafs have crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s on Conor Timmins LTIR assignment, but it will be interesting to see if he comes in higher than league minimum or if his term will be longer than one season. Especially now with the departure of Sam Lafferty it is 100% a lock that something gets done and by all rumours, rumblings, and speculation around the situation the Leafs were interested in Gregor well before his PTO. It will be interesting to see how much flexibility Toronto can gain out of the Lafferty/Gregor switcheroo.

Holmberg, Robertson, or Kokkonen?

I think we already know the answer given that the Leafs have begun experimenting with 7D in some situations, but it’s still hard to consider Mikko Kokkonen of all players to be a roster lock. Nick Robertson seems like the odd man out given that most roster shuffles occur at the bottom of the lineup and skillset is best suited to the top nine forward group, while Pontus Holmberg is a bit more of a roster chameleon and could potentially even step up into some of Lafferty’s penalty killing responsibilities.
Robertson does offer some speed and should be the player of the trio that the Leafs want to put in the position to succeed but it doesn’t do him any favours to stick around to sit in the press box, where Holmberg and Kokkonen are far more likely to be viewed as long term depth options and a more natural fit for that work.

Waivers?

With Robertson, Holmberg, and Kokkonen all being waivers exempt it is also possible that all three could be sent down and not part of the discussion at all. Toronto could run all their veterans through waivers and then ultimately decide they want to keep William Lagesson for as long as possible. Toronto can also take a look at some of the other waivers options from other teams. For example, Zach Bogosian is on waivers and that is a player that Toronto could see as worth revisiting in a physicial defensive depth role or they could see Raphael Lavoie from the Oilers as someone who has potential worth developing (neither are likely the case, but that statement is more fun with examples.)

What happens if Martin Jones gets claimed?

Is anyone particularly worried if Martin Jones gets claimed? Does anyone believe that there are teams lining up for him? I guess putting an experienced third string goaltender on waivers is always an interesting undertaking and with the Leafs having a history of goaltender depth issues it is a bit of a concern even if Jones is just a recognizable name that might provide a bit more comfort in the Leafs net than rolling the dice on Keith Petruzzelli. In the event that he does get claimed it seems likely that Toronto immediate goes to work on acquiring a Plan B, and now they are armed with a shiny new 5th round pick from the Lafferty trade that seems like it can cover off the cost of a depth goaltender.
At 2pm ET on Monday we’ll have a bit more clarity as the Leafs know who cleared and who hasn’t and if GMs still get the same joy out of messing with the Leafs under Brad Treliving as they did when it was Kyle Dubas calling the shots. No matter what we’ve at least got an answer to the question if the Leafs can be cap compliant and ice a full lineup on opening night.

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