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When will William Nylander play his first game?

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How soon will he get in a game? What about the roster?

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Seven Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Kyle Dubas met with the media tonight in St. Paul ahead of the Leafs-Wild game to discuss the William Nylander contract. The one thing we all want to know is when does he get in a game.

This certainly confirms what we’ve expected, but weren’t sure of, that William Nylander doesn’t have to wait on a work visa. If he hops a plane immediately, it takes about 12 hours to get to Toronto. He then has to have his medical, and the Leafs would obviously want to get him into some practices before he plays.

The next game is Tuesday in Buffalo, with a home game after that on Thursday in Detroit. The next game is Saturday, December 8 in Boston. (Boooo!) So the opportunity exists for him to come back right were he left off, playing the Boston Bruins.

There are some practice days in there, with the away game in the mix being so close to home. There is also a good schedule for the whole month of December with some practice time for all the players to get used to new lines.

As of now, the Leafs have 24 men on the roster with Nylander signed. He will technically be considered non-roster until he clears the medical*, but someone in the list of 23 other names will have to be cut. If there was an injury and a player could go on injured reserve, that would solve the problem temporarily, but the most likely thing is that one of the depth players will be waived and sent to the AHL. This might not happen for a couple of days, or the Leafs could choose to do it tomorrow.

They have three obvious choices:

  • Justin Holl has played one game and has a one-way contract that runs for one more year after this one
  • Martin Marinicn has played six games, and his one-way deal is a little more expensive than Holl’s bargain contract, but his runs out this summer
  • Frederik Gauthier has played 22 games, and his inexpensive two-way deal runs for this year and next

All players are at some risk of a waiver claim, and these three are no exception. The two defenders would come in handy on the Marlies as they are about to lose two players to the WJC camp. And the Leafs could really use some depth defence they aren’t afraid to risk to waivers. Holl is less likely to be claimed because of the term on his deal.

Recently a clever team gave a depth player on a two-way deal a one-year, one-way extension and then waived him to move him to the AHL. It worked, and Cory Conacher passed through to join the Tampa Bay Lightning’s farm team.

The Leafs could try that trick with Holl, but not Marincin. They can’t extend him until after January 1.

Gauthier almost seems safe to not be waived because he’s not missed on the Marlies, and he is a centre. Deciding who to waive isn’t just about picking the player you like the least. Teams often don’t claim older players like Holl on one-way deals because then they can’t move them to the minors without losing them back. If they wanted him, they’d just offer the Leafs a sixth-round pick.

That is, of course, the other potential solution to the roster crunch. The Leafs could trade someone. When we know what their choice is, you’ll know. In the meantime we wait some more before we see Nylander in a game.

*Edited to add: Cap Friendly is reporting a new cap hit calculation because this contract does not take effect until tomorrow. So right now there is only 23 players on the roster.