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On the Bubble: Waivers Talk

Up until now we’ve been talking about players who are on the bubble for the Leafs, but we haven’t really done a recap on the consequences for those players who might not make the Leafs roster. The fact of the matter is that the Leafs have a number of players are pretty decent, and could be claimed off of waivers if they don’t make the opening night lineup. It seems highly likely that the Leafs won’t be able to send down everyone they want to without someone being snatched up, so let’s completely review the list and see who is likely to go.

Goaltenders

Require Waivers Waivers Exempt (when exemption expires)
Curtis McElhinney Eamom McAdam (60 games)
Calvin Pickard Ian Scott (80 games)
Garrett Sparks Kasimir Kaskisuo (60 games)

So, that’s pretty straight forward, right? We already knew that Ian Scott, who is potentially just starting his career would be exempt, and frankly with McAdam, we don’t really care because we’re just happy he’s not Matt Martin. Kaskisuo is the one that is probably the most comforting to see on this list, because he is a solid AHL goaltending option, and if both of the goaltenders the Leafs put on waivers are claimed, Kaskisuo will be a decent starter for the Marlies this year.

Despite my personal belief that Pickard is the best of the three, he’s the one most likely to get exposed to waivers. He managed to clear waivers last year in a similar situation where claiming him would seem to be a no brainer, so perhaps that happens again, and perhaps again he is moved after that fact.

It seems like a certainty that which ever one of Sparks or McElhinney goes on waivers, they will be claimed, and that almost makes me wonder if the Leafs will attempt to carry three goaltenders at the start of the year out of fear of losing one of them. The downside to that for Sparks is that he’s a guy that needs to play, and if he’s not getting that opportunity behind two goaltenders, he’s going to suffer. The downside for McElhinney would be if he’s not playing, his career could essentially be ended by sitting in an unfortunate third string role.

Safest Bet: As much as I’m not a fan of Sparks, the safest, and most likely bet is that Pickard and McElhinney get waived. The reality is that McElhinney will get claimed, probably by Pittsburgh, and Pickard will sneak through to be the Marlies starter. The Leafs will be able to see what they have in Sparks, and if he doesn’t work out, there is always Pickard available, and if Sparks has been bad, he’ll clear waivers to return to his Marlies glory. This probably isn’t the crazy situation we’ve made it out to be in the past.

Forwards

Require Waivers Waivers Exempt (when exemption expires)
Josh Leivo Mason Marchment (60 games)
Josh Jooris Carl Grundstrom (160 games)
Adam Cracknell Trevor Moore (80 games)
Freddie Gauthier Par Lindholm (1 season)
Tyler Ennis Pierre Engvall (70 games)
Chris Mueller Jeremy Bracco (160 games)
Andreas Johnsson Adam Brooks (80 games)
Dmytro Timashov (160 games)
Kasperi Kapanen (92 games)

Here’s where it starts getting a bit more complicated than with the goaltenders. At minimum, 8 of 12 positions in the lineup card are firmly spoken for. The fact that Andreas Johnsson requires waivers pretty much means that 9 out of 12 are spoken for, and despite being waiver exempt, it would be cruel to send Kasperi Kapanen back to the Marlies, so we’re looking at 2 lineup positions, and potentially 2 or 3 reserve spots being available, although I’d imagine at least one defenseman will take a reserve spot.

Bracco, Brooks, Engvall, Timashov, and Marchment are all easy demotions. They are largely in camp for the experience, and not real threats to make the team at this point. Par Lindholm is a player who it seems is very likely to stick around, and could make it even harder to get others through waivers. Trevor Moore is another waivers exempt player who could make the team, but given his status, I’m guessing it won’t be out of camp.

Looking at the list of players who require waivers, it seems that Mueller and Gauthier are the locks for demotion, and while I can’t understand why, someone might consider bringing in Gauthier as a 4C option, and make a claim. That’s no loss. Cracknell and Jooris were brought in specifically for the 4C, 13F, or Marlies leader situation, and the AHL was always a very real possibility for them too. That’s probably where at least one of them will wind up, and while other teams are making their cuts, it’s hard to imagine anyone claiming Cracknell or Jooris.

Ennis and Leivo are the interesting cases, but given that there is space for them, they’ll probably be Leafs. It’s just again the question of how much Leivo will play, and whether waivers would be a means to put him out of his misery with the Leafs.

Safest Bet: If Nylander isn’t signed when camp ends, I’d bet that Ennis, Leivo, Johnsson, Kapanen, Lindholm, and Jooris are the safe names on this list. If Nylander is signed, that means that one of Jooris or Leivo will be the odd man out. As for anyone getting claimed, Gauthier has the chance to wind up in Montreal, and if Leivo is cut someone is bound to see what he can do, but no one is lining up for the rest.

Defense

Require Waivers Waivers Exempt (when exemption expires)
Jordan Subban Calle Rosen (56 games)
Connor Carrick Andreas Borgman (22 games)
Martin Marincin Igor Ozhiganov (1 season)
Justin Holl Travis Dermott (116 games)
Vincent LoVerde Rasmus Sandin (160 games)
Ron Hainsey Timothy Liljegren (160 games)
Nikita Zaitsev Andrew Nielsen (160 games)

I’ll start by acknowledging that putting Zaitsev and Hainsey on this list is me being ridiculous. I might not be their biggest fans, but they aren’t in any risk of going anywhere. It’s starting to seem like Dermott might be put in a position where he will have to reprove himself this season though. He’ll ultimately be a Leaf, but we’re setting the stage of some potential health scratches.

So we’ll assume that 5 roster spots are spoken for. There is one very important 6th spot available, and the 2-3 reserve spots that will be split amongst the forwards and possible goaltender. The departures of Sandin, Liljegren, Nielsen are going to happen just as sure as LoVerde and Subban will be on waivers at some point, but that still leaves Rosen, Borgman, Ozhiganov, Carrick, Marincin, and Holl going for 1 lineup spot, and possibly a reserve spot or two.

What seems to be most interesting about this is that Ozhiganov looks to be the favourite for the 6D spot, and that it could be Borgman as the reserve defenseman. That means that Carrick, Holl, and Marincin could all hit waivers. There probably isn’t a huge worry about Marincin’s name being on waivers, but for a select audience of fans, this is one of the most unfortunate things the team could do.

If we’re looking at who could possibly be claimed off of waivers, it’s probably everyone who will hit waivers from the Leafs, with the exception of LoVerde. There probably still is some intrigue around Jordan Subban, given the success of his brothers, but he is also very much likely to clear. Martin Marincin also stands a pretty good chance of clearing waivers, but prepare yourself now for hearing about that being a bad decision for at least 24 hours straight.

Justin Holl probably makes it through waivers as well, but I can’t say I’m as certain about this. He’s been very good in the AHL, and didn’t look out of place in the NHL last season. And he’s got the right handed shot. You can’t blame a team for wanting to bring him along as a 7/8 D and that might be what the Leafs have to do as well.

I’m putting Connor Carrick on the list for the same reason I considered the possibility of waiving Josh Leivo. The kid deserves a chance to play somewhere, and if its not going to be for the Leafs, it’s probably time to let him move on. It’s not that 47 games last season was unreasonable for Carrick, and that he wouldn’t get his shot with the Leafs if he’s not in a top six position to start, so I’m sure waivers is an extreme consideration at this point.

Safe Bet: Rielly, Hainsey, Gardiner, Zaitsev, Dermott, Holl, Carrick, and Ozhiganov are probably all Leafs at the start of the year, and they’ll let the battle for the RD on the 3rd pairing continue for a while. This will come at the cost of only having one reserve forward, but I’m sure the Leafs will be comfortable with that.

So Is There Really A Risk From Waivers Claims?

Not really. Guys like Leivo, Carrick, and Holl can stick around no matter what until the situation sorts itself out. There might be a goaltender lost to waivers, but at this point that’s not something to stress. There will be some fussing about Martin Marincin that we’ll all have to put up with, but by the numbers can be really boring about demotions if they choose to be and they probably will choose that, even if they are demoting some players they like.

Leivo, Carrick, and Sparks all have some value around the league at this point, and if they aren’t players the Leafs want, they could reasonably want to test the market to see if they can turn them into something. I’d just hope that it is something that can be resolved quickly as I’m not sure I’m ready for another year of #FreeSparks #FreeCarrick #FreeLeivo #BringBackPanik #CloneArcobello #Brennan4Captain etc.

Profiles of Bubble Boys

Igor Ozhiganov
Josh Leivo
Tyler Ennis
Martin Marincin
Justin Holl
Freddie Gauthier
Andreas Borgman
Calvin Pickard

Waivers data from Capfriendly.com and you can find a helpful waivers FAQ there as well.

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  • Matmarwill

    I would think that lindholm, leivo and ennis are kept. Sparks is kept. Ozhiganov and Carrick are kept. If nylander is not back, holl or jooris are also kept.

    So, Mcbackup is traded. Pickard clears, as do the rest, except if holl is waived, he gets claimed.

  • leafdreamer

    Marlies won the Cup largely on the strength of their defence and amazing goaltending. I find it really hard to believe that Marincin and Holl (who anchored that defence) will clear waivers. That also means they have value in a trade and will sooner be traded (maybe in a package with one of the goalies) for a nice return that may surprise some. I’d argue, however, that they are more valuable to the team than whatever their return might be as we’re trying to win now and they are NHL ready and solid depth options and everyone knows that you can never have enough depth on defence.

    Ozhiganov, Rosen, Borgman and Dermott are waiver exempt and could all use some time in the AHL.

    I don’t imagine anyone would pick LoVerde or Subban off the waivers as they’d have to play them in the NHL and, while Subban is not ready needing to be further developed / straightened out, LoVerde is a career AHLer and just not good enough for NHL.

    The smart thing to do in order to preserve our defensive depth, then, is to keep Marincin and Holl up, along with Carrick and send the waiver exempt players down for the time being along with LoVerde and Subban who will likely clear.

    As for the goalies, if Sparks really wants to stay with the Leafs (as he’s indicated to the media – big mouth on the kid by the way) he may have to get used to being a 3rd goalie that never plays. He’s not clearing waivers and goalie Mac has been brilliant for us sporting a ridiculous save % and winning us all the hard backs of back-to-backs games that no backup goalie should be winnng. He’s also a perfect back-up to Andersen who likes to play as many games as possible and doesn’t like to have a kid who thinks he’s the future #1 sitting on the bench waiting for his chance. In that scenario, Pickard is on the waivers and very likely getting picked up. It all depends on what brass thinks of their goalies. Whatever the pecking order they decide to put the goalies in, barring a trade, we will almost certainly lose one to the waivers and probably end up carrying another in the press-box for the rest of the season.

    My opinion is that, if the Leafs are serious about winning this year, as they should be, then keeping goalie Mac as a back-up is a no-brainer. This is not the time for developing young goalies in the NHL or for gambling or experimenting. This is the time to win and Andersen’s and MacEillhenny’s relationship is perfect for winning.