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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports

Who’s Left and Who’s Leivo-ing?

With the arrival of William Nylander the Leafs have 24 NHL players and are only allowed 23.

The immediate action taken was that Travis Dermott take an on paper only trip down the Marlies until things can all get sorted out. The reality is that come Tuesday night the Leafs want both Travis Dermott and William Nylander in the lineup and someone else is going to be the odd man out.

That brings us to what is being reported this morning…

It appears the odd man out is Josh Leivo, which is an interesting decision to say the least, so let’s break down all the thoughts that I can muster on the Leafs trading a 25 year old 4th line winger with 6 points. And since he has 6 points, here are 6 points…

  1. Josh Leivo has gotten more of a chance this season, and in his limited role, he has proved offense outside of the top two lines. This is very encouraging and that is why teams likely see Leivo as someone who can fill a role in their top nine.
  2. Leivo is on a contract that no team in the league would object to acquiring. He’s an arbitration eligible restricted free agent at the end of the season, so there isn’t a ton of risk attached to him for anyone.
  3. Mike Babcock has never been a fan of Leivo, and with Nylander returning, it’s entirely likely that Leivo would be returning to his press box role, and giving us all the opportunity to lose our minds over Tyler Ennis playing instead of Leivo. Really, it’s not worth the debate and perhaps sending Leivo out now is an investment in mental health for all of us.
  4. Cool your jets on the return. It’s going to be underwhelming, and you will definitely think that Leivo is a better player than the AHLer the Leafs acquire or the mid/late draft pick. This deal is pretty much about getting something for him and not letting him go for nothing. Make peace with that, and hope that it’s not Jeremy Morin returning to the Marlies.
  5. Josh Leivo has the 4th best CF% on the Leafs, and the 2nd best of the Leafs forwards. I point this out now because you are going to hear a lot about this if he goes. Additionally he has the 2nd best xGF% on the Leafs, and has the best numbers of any forward. Admittedly I’m starting to rethink this a little, but given Mike Babcock’s 4th line only plays against the other 4th line mentality, context matters.
  6.  The rumor is that there are three teams interested in Leivo. The Oilers are certainly a team that has been paying attention to him for a while, Lou Lamoriello is very familiar with Leivo, and if I was to guess at a third team I’d say the Hurricanes are interested. If you are going to start looking through AHL rosters trying to pick an ideal return, these are the teams I’ll probably start with, although doesn’t acquiring Leivo also seem like a very Coyotes type move?

In closing, this is being posted minutes before waivers, and for all we know the Leafs have gone in a different direction. There might still be something in the works for Leivo, and frankly it has seemed like a Leivo trade has been a long time coming. Change of scenery trades are cliche, but Leivo definitely deserves the opportunity to work with a coach that wants to work with him.

It’s also important to remember that Leivo won’t be the last player we see leave the Leafs so the core of the team can be preserved. It’s just a hard sell for anyone who would have rather seen Gauthier, Holl, Ennis, Marincin, etc. leave instead.

Also, and I feel like I should have touched on this sooner, just because there are rumours of Leivo leaving, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen and we could very well see him in the lineup (or press box) on Tuesday night.

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