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Waive Eric Fehr and keep him: Why would the Maple Leafs do that?

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It’s all about flexibility.

Chicago Blackhawks v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

On Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs waived Eric Fehr, and he cleared on Tuesday. Wednesday saw him at practice, just like normal. What’s going on?

The simple answer might be that James van Riemsdyk was out, and he may or may not play in the next game. Fehr might be around still simply as a precaution against future need until the Leafs are sure van Riemsdyk can play.

However, the Leafs didn’t have to remove anyone from the roster, they currently sit at the 23-man limit.

Clearing waivers doesn’t obligate a team to move the player to the AHL, it just allows them to. But a clock starts ticking, so some decision has to be made, or time makes it for everyone.

The key numbers are 10 games and 30 days. Once Fehr hits either marker he needs waivers to be sent down to the AHL.

The Leafs play two home games, one on Thursday and one Saturday, and then they go to California for three games. They play the Blues on the way back, and have a home game again on November 5.

The Marlies play this Friday in Syracuse, and Saturday at home.

Waiving Fehr creates several forms of flexibility for the Leafs beyond immediate injury covverage.

They might want to call someone up, but they’re willing to let that person get in some games in the AHL this weekend before they add them to the Leafs roster.

The Leafs might be trying to find a trade for Fehr to get him on a team that’s more likely to play him, now that they’ve decided on Dominic Moore as the fourth line centre. Having him clear waivers makes him a better value to a team that wants him as a depth option they might want to pop up and down to the AHL occasionally.

The Leafs might want to (or be forced to) keep Fehr on the team for the rest of the season. To keep him valuable as a depth replacement some AHL conditioning could be crucial. They can use a conditioning stint, but that’s time-limited and doesn’t take him off the active roster. Having the flexibility to send him to the Marlies at any time if they need a player or he needs to get some work in is valuable for a depth player.

They may simply want the flexibility of having a forward who can be sent down quickly and without waivers in case they want to call someone up for a game or two. If the Leafs suffer two minor injuries to defenders and they don’t want to use IR to take them off the 23-man roster for the minimum full week, what do they do? They can’t send down Andreas Borgman to make room in that case.

The value of waiving Fehr now only lasts a month if they don’t send him to the AHL, so sometime between now and late November, some sort of move seems inevitable.