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Predicting the Toronto Maple Leafs Opening Night Line-Up

The Toronto Maple Leafs made roster moves, sending a group of players to the Toronto Marlies. Who’s left? Who will be in the starting line-up?

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The Toronto Maple Leafs made roster moves, sending a group of players to the Toronto Marlies. Who’s left? Who will be in the starting line-up? In this post, I will address these questions.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club announced that it had made a number of roster moves as the team prepares for the opening of the regular season.

The team placed four players on waivers, hoping to reassign them to their affiliate the Toronto Marlies. These players include Pontus Aberg, Tyler Gaudet, Ben Harpur, and Jordan Schmaltz.

The team also reassigned eight players to the Marlies, and they will join the Marlies’ training camp this week. These players were Darren Archibald, Jeremy Bracco, Adam Brooks, Rich Clune, Hudson Elynuik, Pierre Engvall, and Teemu Kivihalme.

Of those, the only player I am a bit surprised about is Engvall. I had thought before training camp started that he might have a chance with his size and skill. I thought he looked strong during the Marlies 2018-19 season and postseason. Plus, and this is a small thing possibly, but he won the fitness competitions in the Maple Leafs training camp.

How That Impacts the Toronto Marlies

When the Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas signed seven free agents on July 24, 2019, (see below) I’m sure he had this day in mind. Obviously, he couldn’t keep everyone he signed, but he wanted the team to have maximum flexibility. He believed that, by signing a host of players with NHL experience, he might be able to stockpile these NHL veterans in his AHL affiliate – just in case of injury. In part, that plan started to unfold today.

Let’s assume that this group of four (Aberg, Gaudet, Harpur, and Schmaltz) clears waivers. If it does, the Maple Leafs have done exactly what Dubas planned for – have a core of capable players who could travel across town to join the big team should an injury or two occur. Plus, what else matters is that this is a group of players on cheap contracts – none who will upset the team’s complex salary-cap situation.

For Marlies’ fans – and I know many fans simply love to watch the Marlies – it provides good entertainment value. The Maple Leafs are in a fortunate situation with the Marlies. Because both teams utilize the same practice facility (The Ford Performance Centre), a call up isn’t an issue at all – just move down the hall from one locker room to another.

Where Do These Cuts Leave the Maple Leafs?

Now that Harpur and Schmaltz have been waived, it’s certain that the young and impressive Rasmus Sandin and his partner Martin Marincin will become the Maple Leafs’ third pairing. Sandin has looked so good that he’s almost a lock to stick for the season, even if he has waiver exemptions. He seems that good. He’s played tons of minutes (one game playing of 30 minutes of ice time) in the preseason and hasn’t looked out of place at all.

Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs Leading Scorer 2018-19

There are now 34 players on the Leafs roster, and obviously some are guaranteed to make the roster. The following players will be on the bubble: Matt Read, Kalle Kossila, Timothy Liljegren, Garrett Wilson, Joseph Woll, Kevin Gravel, Dymtro Timashov, Nick Shore, Nic Petan, Yegor Korshkev, Kenny Agostino, Justin Holl, and Mason Marchment.

James Tanner, of Editor-in-Leaf, did a nice analysis of the situation for the team. He noted that, if the Maple Leafs carry the maximum roster number of 23 players (with Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott on the injury reserve list to start the season), of these 13 players, nine must be waived or moved to the Marlies.

However, the Maple Leafs also have salary-cap considerations that complexify how they choose their roster. With four Maple Leafs players (John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander) making almost half of the upper limit of the salary cap, the remainder of the roster must have bargain contracts. Of the players left, only Shore ($750,000), Petan ($775,000), Agostino ($737,500), and Holl ($675,000) have cap-friendly-enough contracts to allow the team to duck under the upper limit of the salary cap and will likely make the team.

Thus, unless something else happens, these look like the Maple Leafs starting line-up for the first regular-season game.

Line One:  Kasperi Kapanen – John Tavares – Mitch Marner

Line Two: Andreas Johnson – Auston Matthews – William Nylander

Line Three: Ilya Mikheyev – Alexander Kerfoot – Trevor Moore 

Line Four: Kenny Agostino – Frederik Gauthier – Jason Spezza

Defensive Pairing One: Morgan Rielly – Cody Ceci

Defensive Pairing Two: Jake Muzzin – Tyson Barrie

Defensive Pairing Three: Rasmus Sandin – Martin Marincin 

Goalies #1 Frederik Andersen #2 Michael Hutchinson 

Extras: Shore, Holl and Petan.  

There Are Still More Roster Moves

This is the best sense of where the roster stands at this moment, but there remain roster moves to go. Whatever happens, the Maple Leafs will have an excellent roster. How good? We don’t know quite yet.

The regular season will reveal so much.

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