Mark Arcobello has been waived, Brad Boyes is in the press box tonight, and Frank Corrado will soon be returning from a “conditioning stint” in the AHL. We probably could have predicted this in the offseason when the Leafs went out and picked up a bunch of new faces, but here we are – Toronto has a roster crunch problem. Too many players, too few minutes to go around, and only a few options that don’t include sending players through waivers and losing them for nothing.
Here’s the Roundtable with how they’d juggle Toronto’s roster and sort everything out.
I’m 100% on board with making a trade, and in particular, moving a defenceman. There have been plenty of reports about teams wanting to upgrade their blueline, and some of them have even mentioned Roman Polak as a potential trade target – I’d be very cool with that.
There’s a difference between Toronto’s depth on defence and their depth up front. It’s not a huge deal if guys like Mark Arcobello and Nick Spaling aren’t getting a ton of ice time since these are cheap veterans on one-year contracts. They could spend most of the season in the minors or in the press box and the organization wouldn’t suffer for it long-term. Byron Froese seems like an odd choice to keep around for much longer at the NHL level, but at least you can return him back to the Marlies fairly easily.
My biggest concern is on the blueline, with players like Scott Harrington, Frank Corrado and Martin Marincin getting buried by depth. Harrington could be returned to the Marlies and play a significant role there, which would be fine for his development, but the other two don’t have the same luxury. Both Corrado and Marincin would need to clear waivers, and are probably too good to be playing in the AHL anyways. I don’t mind either of them spending a game here or there as a healthy scratch, but wouldn’t it just be easier to move a Polak now as opposed to later in the year and run with your young guys? I highly doubt you could get better value if you wait, especially if there’s a market for defencemen that exists right now. Take a draft pick and free up some roster flexibility – seems like an easy choice.
This seems like a pretty straightforward solution to me. For one, on the subject of Mark Arcobello, there’s nothing wrong with him playing in the AHL right now. You can argue whether or not he deserves to be there over guys like Froese and Clune, but the act of having him and his contract sit in the AHL right now really doesn’t cause any short- or long-term problems to the team. If and when more injuries arise, and if he’s playing well for the Marlies, he’s a good player to be able to call up.
With Corrado, I’d say it depends largely on what the team thinks of Froese and Clune. If either of those guys impresses the coaching staff, or if both of them do, you can safely place Corrado on waivers. Let’s be real here: Corrado isn’t that good. He’s maybe an NHL player, but he’s a depth player at best, and having him get claimed by another team, or more realistically having him play for the Marlies, doesn’t really hurt the team at all. He’s the 8th defenseman on a healthy Leafs blueline anyways. The forwards right now are seemingly more of an issue, so I would think logic prevails and they dedicate two roster spots to extra forwards and one roster spot to an extra defenseman as opposed to the other way around. Like Arcobello, Corrado would serve as a fine call-up option depending on the circumstances that arise this season.
As far as Clune goes, again, it depends on how he does. If he impresses the team this weekend then I think he stays, and if not, he likely gets sent down either to keep Corrado around or to try another forward with the big club. Froese, Clune, Arcobello, and Corrado are all fairly interchangeable depth players, and I don’t think it matters a whole lot which of these players the team chooses to roll with. And let’s not forget the likes of Richard Panik, Sam Carrick, Stuart Percy, or T.J. Brennan either. I think it’s fairly safe to assume the Leafs are going to be in somewhat of a roster crunch all season, with them reacting to things like injury and player performance accordingly at any given moment to decide how they want to rotate their depth pieces.
I’m not really sure much needs to be done. The plan all along seemed to be gather together as many average players as possible and hope that some emerge as above average, and those that wind up playing below expectations get benched for Rich Clune. That being said I still feel there’s one Leaf that needs to be removed from the equation completely and that’s Joffrey Lupul.
Let’s say for a second that Joffrey Lupul was playing average, or even somehow he moves the bar up to slightly above average, he’s still an unmovable asset with his $5.25M cap hit and even more ridiculous salary. All he’s doing is blocking an opportunity for a developing player or other marketable asset.
The thing is Joffrey Lupul isn’t even playing average. He’s terrible. Only Froese and Spaling have been worse from a possession standpoint, and despite being in the top six for ice time among forwards, he’s been held to 3 points. Lupul has been attached to the Spaling and Winnik line in hopes of being the offensive catalyst on a defensively responsible line, and since we know Lupul is a sinkhole defensively this really serves as a reminder that the Leafs are better off without him.
The nice thing too from an asset management perspective is that you don’t need to worry about anyone claiming Lupul if he hits waivers. That cap hit isn’t going anywhere. And if it does, well that feels as good as winning the lottery.
The unfortunate reality is that players in their 30s who’ve sucked for the past four seasons don’t magically unsuck as they get older. Lupul is bad now, and getting worse seems like the more likely option. Why not bury him on the Marlies and give depth wingers like Hyman, Bailey, Leivo a chance to show their worth?