Per reports this morning, the Leafs have placed centre Peter Holland on waivers.
The Leafs have placed Peter Holland on waivers. His arbitration hearing is on Monday.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) July 22, 2016
While this may seem like an odd move, there is some precedent here. The Minnesota Wild did the same thing earlier this week with Jordan Schroeder days prior to his arbitration. The move is believed to be to get an advantage at arbitration. If no one claims Holland (as the Leafs seem to expect), it is likely they will intend to use it as leverage for him to take a lesser deal.
According to Michael Russo, the point in the Wild case is to prove that Schroeder is only deserving of a two-way contract, not the one-way he wants.
There is a possibility that the Leafs wish to make the same argument about Holland. It is tempting to have an emotional response and see it as punishment for Holland opting for arbitration instead of signing whatever deal the Leafs want for him, but this might be more about how they see the 25-year-old's future in the organization.
It is entirely possible that Holland may never play a game for the Leafs again, whether by waiver claim, subsequent trade, or other means. If that is the case, it appears to be another case of a management regime cleaning out the remnants of the previous regime.
Holland was acquired by former GM Dave Nonis in November 2013 from the Anaheim Ducks for failed prospect Jesse Blacker in perhaps one of his better moves. Notwithstanding Randy Carlyle failing to understand his skate lace injury, he seemed to be well-regarded by the old guard of the Leafs.
Things changed last season, though. Mike Babcock did not seem to have much use for Holland during the season, and the current management group seems to adhere to that school of thought as well. It would not shock me if he ultimately did move on to another team.
Holland has 62 points in 166 games with the Leafs; despite his shaky relationship with Babcock, he hit a career high of 27 points in 65 games last season. There is no question Holland is a legitimate NHL player, but with this move, the question is whether he will get that opportunity here. Holland got a lot of ice time, and lot of top line ice time last year, and that usage may lead the fans, and potentially an arbitrator, to conclude his expiring one-way deal of $775,000 per year is too low.
Even with his time on the ice with the Leafs' best forwards, Holland was 13th in Points per 60 minutes at five-on-five amongst forwards who played at least ten games, while sixth in icetime (data from Puckalytics). That alone makes a strong case that he was playing above his pay grade.
As a centre, Holland seems to be well down the depth chart now, while as a winger, he's perhaps more capable of playing up the lineup, but those jobs are much more hotly contested.
If the goal of the Leafs is to force him into a two-way deal, even one with a very high AHL pay rate, he becomes more valuable in a potential trade to cap-strapped team looking for depth. Provided, of course, the NHL salary is very low.
Analysis aside, it would suck to see Holland go. Not just because he is a reasonably productive and cheap depth player, but off the ice, he contributes a lot to the community and just loves being a Maple Leaf. Loves it. It's his childhood team, and he has never failed to be vocal about what it means to him to play here. Case in point:
Wishing myself a happy one year anniversary of being a Maple Leaf today! Need a similar sign pic.twitter.com/44bpdg3XXr— Peter Holland (@PeterHolland13) November 16, 2014
We will know by 12 PM ET tomorrow whether Holland has cleared waivers.
Some commenters have asked whether his qualifying offer (which he could still accept) has to be one-way. Per s. 10.2(a)(iii) of the CBA:
A Club's Qualifying Offer must be a One-Way Qualifying Offer if the applicable Player has:
(A) actually played (excluding games missed for injury, illness or disability) 180 or more NHL Games in the previous three (3) NHL Seasons,
(B) played at least sixty (60) NHL Games in the previous NHL Season, and
(C) not cleared Waivers in the period between the 12th day prior to the commencement of the previous Regular Season and the end of a Club's previous Playing Season.
For purposes hereof only, a goaltender is deemed to have played an NHL Game when he was dressed and on the bench as a backup.
In all other cases, a Qualifying Offer may be a Two-Way Qualifying Offer
[emphasis and paragraph breaks for ease of reference added]
The most important word in this section is "and," which stipulates a player must meet all three conditions. While the wording of "excluding injury" is somewhat confusing, the rule simply is to be eligible for a one-way qualifying offer, a player must have: (i) played 180+ games since 2013-14; (ii) played 60+ games since 2015-16; and, (iii) not cleared waivers in 2015-16.
Holland meets two of those three conditions, but not the first one. Factoring in his four games with Anaheim in 2013-14, he has played 170 NHL games since 2013-14, which falls ten short of the threshold. Under the CBA, the Leafs would have been entitled to offer him a two-way deal.
Whether they did, however, is a fact we will never know for sure, though given recent events, it appears likely.