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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