Leafs side with youth as four veterans hit waivers

Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made their newest wave of cuts, placing four of their oldest players on waivers this afternoon. While the mentions of Byron Froese and Andrew Campbell aren’t surprising to anybody, the list also includes high-priced veterans Colin Greening and Brooks Laich.

In the case of Laich, many believed him to be an “anchor veteran” in this year’s locker room. A long time positive influence for the Washington Capitals, Laich has been praised by many for how he’s bought into the rebuild here with his childhood team, encouraging the younger players to go the extra mile with their offseason training and taking both William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen under his wing.

One of the biggest problems was that Laich’s performances haven’t been super duper impressive. That’s not a huge shocker, given that he’s been under offensive decline since he had 53 and 59 point seasons in 2009 and 2010, and that he’s now 33 years old. But in a fourth line role, he seemed to be capable enough, picking up seven points in 21 games last year, though he struggled from a possession standpoint.

Greening is a bit more surprising, given that he was a half-point-per-game player in a limited role following the trade that sent him here with play-driving numbers that gave the impression that he made his linemates better. Alas, the Left Wing position is one of the ones that the Leafs have players in abundance in, which is part of what made his battle so much tougher.

You also have Froese, who didn’t score at anything close to the rate he did with the Toronto Marlies but was playing an entirely different game, and Campbell, who everybody expected to be cut due to an abundance of defencemen with contracts. 

It’ll be interesting to see what the exact thought process is here, though. I wrote the other day about having to decide between the veteran and the kid in a tiebreaker, and a huge factor in those decisions is the comfort level that you have in the veteran player to take their assignment in stride and help their team out rather than sulk on the bench.

If that were considered, then the Leafs probably picked the four most fitting veterans. Campbell is an automatic, being the captain of the Marlies to begin with. Froese’s full season with the Leafs last year was an anomaly for his career to date, having spent most of it in the AHL. Greening will no doubt be a bit disappointed, but having large chunks of the two prior seasons in Binghamton, I doubt he’s too shocked. This just leaves Laich as the only real question mark, having been away from full-time AHL experience for over a decade now, but an outsider’s perspective gives the impression of his head being in the right place and he’s probably well aware that he’ll be looked to as a call-up option of the centre position is ever lacking in players.

Toronto also gains a slight cap advantage. Now that it looks like the Leafs won’t have to use LTIR on Nathan Horton this year, the team needs to start shedding money rather than inflating before opening night. Burying Laich and Greening and keeping kids like Zach Hyman and Connor Brown up instead gives them a bit of wiggle room, as the first $950,000 of their contracts come off the books when they’re sent down, compared to the typical $600-750,000 of the rookies.

With these moves and the massive wave of cuts before it, the Leafs roster is down to 25 players. Buckle up, the last few days before puck drop should be fun ones.

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  • Brent Wisken

    Happily surprised that Laich is on waivers. It’s the right move. He was outplayed by the younger players, and the Leafs already have veterans in JVR, Michalek, Komarov, Bozak (and unfortunately Hunwick). Kadri, Gardiner and Rielly have grown as well.

  • Brent Wisken

    Interesting that Leivo is still around. Was under the impression that Babcock isn’t a fan for some reason. In my opinion, he’s played well. Still surprised that Prust hasn’t been cut yet. 15 forwards left, and i think two more cuts will be made to keep 8 d-men. Soshnikov will be sent down to start with the Marlies due to the injury. I have a feeling the last cut will be between Leivo and Prust.

    • Stan Smith

      I am starting to think that Prust makes the team, especially with them deciding to the yourh route. They were clearly pushed around in their last four exhibition games. You can tell the book on the young Leafs team is going to be to get on them fast and hard, and not give them room to move. I realize they have Martin and Polak to carry the weight, but I can see them keeping Prust for this purpose as well. Also, when Prust has played, in the preseason, which wasn’t much, he played pretty well, and did not look out of place.

      • Brent Wisken

        You might be right about Prust making the team given Babcock’s comments about wanting the team to play “heavier”, and the coach seemingly having some sort of issue with Leivo (which I don’t understand). What I am wondering about is why didn’t the team just make all the cuts today? What is the holdup with the other two cuts? There aren’t any more pre-season games.

        • Marcel DePass

          Na man, Prust will be cut. He’s been a waste of skates thus far, rather have Greening in the lineup. I agree with you about Leivo, I think he has done enough last season and now to stay with the team. His defensive game has developed a ton and can be relied upon, albeit with support.
          I guess with Laich and Froese being sent down means that Holland is on the team and is a 4th line center, which he is overqualified for.
          Interesting times…

          • Brent Wisken

            Hope you are right about Prust. Given the role he plays, he seems redundant given the Leafs already have Martin, Komarov, and Hyman. Interesting times indeed.

          • Tigon

            I’m surprised both Laich and Greening were waived. They can keep Leivo if injuried because he will be on injuries reserve and then sent down after. I’m sure you cant send down injuried players.

            I suspect Prust will only be around on the PTO until Kadri is okay to return. Which is allowed, and then will be cut.

          • LukeDaDrifter

            Look at all the suspensions for cheap shots already and it’s only preseason. The department of health and safety really needs to crack down on the intentional attempts to injure other players. Perhaps putting some of the blame on coaches and GM’s for insisting on signing these sort of players. The game is tough enough under normal play. Accidents happen all the time.

          • Kanuunankuula

            Enforcers don’t prevent injuries. Again, look at Savard. That Boston team was filled with guys who can drop the gloves. Didn’t help Savard from getting his melon scrambled. And besides rats are not going to fight them anyway, just skate away and draw a penalty.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    Re- “LTIR on Nathan Horton”… Horton can not go on the LTIR for cap purposes until the start of the season. Some of these waived players may very well return after the season officially starts, provided they clear waivers.

    • Tigon

      I knew about the LTIR rule but your theory didn’t even dawn on me. Good thinking Luke and could very well be correct.

      Laich was a training beast all summer and a good leader for a young group. He can do the 82 game grind. I was sure he had a spot on this team. Greening has performed well. Cap hit aside it’s hard to believe fans actually think he didn’t earn a spot.