Though we won’t likely hear of any official roster cuts until Sunday or Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock’s Saturday night postgame scrum with reports might have given us some insight into the opening night roster.
Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly are locks to make the roster. Spending a majority of their time in the NHL as part of the same defensive pairing, Babcock intends to split them up when the regular season kicks off on Wednesday.
“Both can’t be beat down behind the opponents net all the time, if one is down there I don’t mind,” Babcock explained. “That’s where guys like (Matt) Hunwick, (Scott) Harrington and (Martin) Marincin come in.”
Besides Rielly and Gardiner being split up, which was the expected move and makes a lot of sense, it’s very interesting to hear Babcock single Harrington out specifically. Harrington has been solid all pre-season and appears to have the inside track on some of the Leafs’ veteran defenders to make the opening night roster.
Let’s play detective and assume that, along with Gardiner and Rielly, captain Dion Phaneuf is a lock to make the Leafs roster as well (bold, I know). If the players Babcock specifically named – Hunwick, Harrington and Marincin – are also going to make the opening night lineup, that likely leaves blueline spot remaining for either Roman Polak or Stephane Robidas.
Smart money would be on Polak to grab that last spot, which means the 38-year old Robidas could be Marlies-bound. Sporting a $3M cap hit, the Leafs would save $950k of that by sending Robidas to the AHL, effectively taking on a $2.05M cap penalty just to demote him. Robidas is signed through next season as well.
Harrington, 22, is in the final year of his entry-level contract that carries a $589k cap hit. The Kingston, Ontario native appeared in 10 games for the Penguins last season.
What do you think of Scott Harrington potentially making the team? Do you think it’s the right move to send down Stephane Robidas? Let us know in the comments below!