The first transaction of the post-Randy Carlyle era has occurred this morning, as 23 year old Carter Ashton was placed on waivers.
This Doesn’t Make Sense
So, a lot of people have looked at Carter Ashton and thought “hey, he probably wouldn’t be so bad without Randy Carlyle in his way”. It’s hard to disagree with that thought – Ashton has spent his NHL career with terrible linemates. After all, it’s hard to produce points as an up-and-comer when you’re on the ice with Jerred Smithson and Colton Orr, who were most frequently alongside him.
On the other hand, Ashton has produced in spades when playing with the Toronto Marlies, particularly under watch of temporary co-head coach Steve Spott. Last year, he was used as a position-aware sharpshooter and potted 16 goals in 24 games, a very impressive, if not unsustainable total. For this reason, you would think that with Carlyle gone, this is an opportune time to experiment with the lineup and see what he can do in a different role.
This Does Make Sense
But there are more factors in this equation, particularly when we factor for opportunity cost and roster balancing. The Toronto Maple Leafs are up against the roster limit and salary cap, and with Leo Komarov back in the lineup full-time, there’s simply not enough room for Ashton right now.
Plus, if there’s a time for him to clear waivers, this is it. Ashton is just coming off of his twenty game asthma puffer induced suspension, and isn’t quite in game shape. He still has yet to produce anything noteworthy in the NHL, position to succeed be damned. Oh, and most of the teams that we expected to pick off of the waiver wire have made their moves in the past few days. Ashton’s short-term effectiveness is likely not good enough for a team to take a chance on, and the upside isn’t significant enough to take the plunge anyway.
The ideal situation for the Leafs is that Ashton clears, and gets some extended time on the Marlies to bring his conditioning, confidence, and production back up. That way, if they have somebody integral go down, he’s ready to play his best NHL hockey yet.