Leafs waive Milan Michalek, claim Ben Smith

Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Toronto Maple Leafs have dipped into the waiver game for the second time this season, waiving Milan Michalek while claiming Colorado Avalanche forward Ben Smith.


The Smith claim is particularly curious, though I’m not so sure that we know the true reasoning for it just yet. The 28-year-old, was, for a lack of a better term, a bit of a curious case last season, putting up 6 points in 16 games with the big club following his inclusion in the James Reimer trade with San Jose. Those are decent numbers for a player who spent half of his time with Colin Greening and Brooks Laich in a checking role, but it’s also worth noting that he’s dragged nearly every player down from a play-driving standpoint.

My initial thought was that the team might be interested in re-waiving him and assigning him to the Marlies to give them an extra player to potentially use at centre, but Mike Babcock has already confirmed that Smith will play tomorrow against Tampa Bay. I’d suppose that he’d get the benefit of the doubt over a player like Seth Griffith, if only because he spent a few months playing under Leafs/Marlies systems last year.

Quite honestly, I don’t know if I understand the decision at all from any sort of quantitative or even qualitative standpoint, so we’re going to have to see how he gets used this week before we can draw any serious conclusions. As it stands at the moment, though, this seems kind of baffling.

As for Michalek, the decision there seems a bit tougher. At times, he teases those watching with a glimpse of the player he once was, making creative plays, crashing the net, and even putting up points and tilting the needle a bit as far as moving the puck into the right areas. Scoring points in his first 18 games with the Leafs certainly gives one a reason to believe that he could work out in some situation, somewhere.

But ultimately, he’s not what he once was; injuries have bogged him down and he’s skating around at a fraction of the speed that he used to. There’s been concern that he might be the piece dragging down his line, which includes Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov. In waiving him and placing Smith on the fourth line, the Leafs have an opportunity to promote Connor Brown into the top-nine, which is where a player like him should be regardless.

Michalek still has a year left on his deal, in which he carries a $4 million cap hit. This severely cuts the odds of somebody claiming him on waivers; presently, the only teams that could realistically take him on are Nashville, Edmonton, Ottawa, New Jersey, Florida, Winnipeg, or Carolina.

If someone did, this would put the Leafs in an advantageous position to start dipping into the trade market. But that’s unlikely for now; in the meantime, he’ll play with the Marlies if he clears. Swapping Michalek with Smith will also save the Leafs approximately $275,000.

  • Brent Wisken

    Kadri played well with Brown last season for the short time they played together. Brown is an upgrade to Michalek. Fortunately Michalek and Greening’s salaries come off the books after this year.

  • Klas

    If Florida doesn’t claim him he will go to the Marlies and help develop guys like Soshnikov, Leipsic and Kapanen. He`ll be an expensive AHLer but he will be off the books next year. But if Florida wants to win with Jagr and Luongo, Michalek is good but expensive insurance for a deep playoff run.

  • Tigon

    I’ve said since game 2 that if the Leafs needed a shakeup with their lines they should play Brown with Kadri and Komarov and Michalek with Holland and Martin.

    They could have done this without claiming Smith, or call up Greening and waive Michalek.

    And what is going on with Griffith, why is a waiver claim happening that is getting into the lineup before him. I don’t like this Smith claim situation at all.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Seth Griffith is high-end offensive talent. We are not short of that just now. I expect to see him in when someone needs a rest or is injured. The Smith claim is an attempt to improve the shutdown capabilities.God knows we are in desperate need in that area. It is a safe low-cost move as he can easily be moved if something better makes more sense.I suspect Michalek was going down regardless. Greening like Brown is not really a shut-down player. Penalty kill and faceoffs tip the scale.

  • Jon

    Two issues with this:

    1. Would it have even been possible for the Leafs to re-waive Smith? I thought if the claiming team waived him, he just went back to the original team and they were allowed to assign him to their AHL affiliate?

    2. Michalek doesn’t have another year left on his deal. At least according to CapFriendly, it expires this year. He’ll be a free agent on July 1.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Re- 1….. If the Leafs place Smith back on waivers then Colorado would have first dibs on getting him back and could then send him straight to the AHL. If the Rockies were to pass, any other team could claim him using the order of last years final standings. If that team ended up waiving him once again then normal waiver rules would apply. I have heard that once in a while a GM will do another GM a favour by claiming someone then putting them back on waivers so the original team can get him back and send him straight to the minors. This avoids the other 28 teams getting a crack at the player. The National Hockey League, the Players’ Association and Twitter, keep a close watch on this type of manipulation. It is very hard to prove. It is usually followed by a trade with the other GM. Does Colorado have anything we need? ……

      Like Tyson Barrie perhaps…….Definitely wishful thinking.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    After those late game collapses it should have been obvious there was something wrong with the overall defensive side of the game. We often overlook/undervalue the players that can play a great defensive role. Babcock doesn’t. We can afford to give up some offense to improve the defensive side.There are times when our team simply needs to bog down the play so nothing is happening either way, no matter who has the puck.

    Ben Smith – Right Wing — 28 years old – Height 5.11 — Weight 199

    Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he thought Smith could be of help to the penalty kill as well as the faceoff circle.

    Talent Analysis
    Smith is a versatile forward that can play
    well in any situation, at any forward position, and throughout the
    lineup. His hockey sense and work ethic may be his strongest attributes.
    He plays close attention to his defensive responsibilities and is
    rarely found out of position. Offensively, he has a nose for the net and
    is willing to crash the crease for a goal. Smith’s tendency to outwork
    his opponents has endeared the winger to many fans while, off the ice,
    his personality and charity work have also earned him praise.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        That is correct. Byron would have been the likely call-up and may still be called up for our defensive needs. After watching the first five games, are you suggesting we don’t really have a problem winning faceoffs and holding on to leads at the end of the game? Last year when we were tied or had the lead near the end of the game Froese was usually on the ice. Sure we could have called up Kapanen or Leipsic, but at the end of that game in Chicago when we were trying to hold on to the lead, do you think Babcock would have put either of them on the ice, against Toews. Kane, Panarin, Keith, and Seabrook etc.?