Maybe it’s because we just did the T25 over again, or maybe it’s the obvious state of the Maple Leafs salary cap and roster limits, or maybe it’s just the times. Whatever it is, I’m sick of the game where fans and media play pretend with minor leaguers at training camp. I’m sick of the game of will he or won’t he played with prospects who haven’t got a hope. I’m sick of the part where fans get terrified the bad player they don’t like will make the team even more.
The Maple Leafs had two choices heading into training camp when it comes to roster construction. They could have gone with all their players who will make the team plus the very small number of potential extras on the Taxi Squad. Or they could do what they did and max out the numbers with Marlies to have enough players to run a 20 vs 20 group setup to allow for scrimmages. There are no exhibition games, so this big-as-allowed camp seems wise.
That doesn’t mean they “like” this AHLer or that one over the other, or that they are about to make the team because anyone can make it if you believe!!! No they can’t. It’s totally okay to say that too.
The Leafs picked an interesting set of PTO Marlies:
- Justin Brazeau: 0 NHL games, 2 AHL games
- Rourke Chartier: 13 NHL, 121 AHL
- Tyler Gaudet: 20 NHL, 356 AHL
- Scott Sabourin: 35 NHL, 308 AHL
With the exception of Brazeau, who the Leafs signed as a free agent out of the OHL to an AHL contract and consider a project, they’re all experienced players with NHL games in their resume.
This is exactly who you pick as practice players you don’t need to pay any attention to. They are anti-prospects in every way. They aren’t young, stupid, or in need of a map to figure out how camp works. They are, in fact, the faces you see when you look up “good pros” in the dictionary of clichés.
The clue that the Leafs are running an “all business” training camp is the absence of Joe Woll and Ian Scott, who are allowed to be there. Most teams have all their goalies at all levels, but the Leafs are not using their rookies who are heading for the AHL in a month.
There are few genuine prospects at this camp, but many NHL-contracted AHLers. David Warsofsky, who was waived last week, and Joey Duszak, who are exempt aren’t needed with the flood of depth defenders the Leaf have ready to be moved to the AHL.
Players like Nic Petan, Calle Rosen and Kenny Agostino all have NHL experience, and they join the extra necessary forwards listed above as the useful professional practice players, who aren’t making the team. No, they aren’t making the Leafs, either. Here’s why:
CapFriendly.com Armchair-GM User-Generated Roster
Right wing: Mitchell Marner ($10,893,000) - William Nylander ($6,962,366) - Wayne Simmonds ($1,500,000) - Jimmy Vesey ($900,000)
Centre: Auston Matthews ($11,634,000) - John Tavares ($11,000,000) - Joe Thornton ($700,000) - Jason Spezza ($700,000)
Left wing: Zach Hyman ($2,250,000) - Alexander Kerfoot ($3,500,000) - Ilya Mikheyev ($1,645,000) - Nicholas Robertson ($821,667)
Right: TJ Brodie ($5,000,000) - Justin Holl ($2,000,000) - Travis Dermott ($874,125)
Left: Morgan Rielly ($5,000,000) - Jake Muzzin ($5,625,000) - Mikko Lehtonen ($925,000) - Zach Bogosian ($1,000,000)
Frederik Andersen ($5,000,000) - Jack Campbell ($1,650,000)
Roster Size: 21
Salary Cap: $81,500,000
Cap Hit: $80,955,158
Cap Space: $544,842
Aaron Dell ($800,000), Alex Barabanov ($925,000), Martin Marincin ($700,000), Pierre Engvall ($1,250,000 [$175,000 overage included in above calculation]), Rasmus Sandin ($894,167), Timothy Liljegren ($863,333)
Nick Robertson might not make the cut, and Alex Barabanov may. Pierre Engvall might be on the main roster from the start and it’s possible, but unlikely, that the team runs with the 21st man an extra forward instead of a defender.
I chose a full six-man Taxi Squad while the AHL is not in operation in order to get the important players into the NHL practices for a few more weeks. The Leafs may choose to go with only five players on the squad from day one to allow for cap management moves. That depends on how much they truly value added cap space at the deadline.
Aaron Dell is not an option on the squad, as they are required to have three goalies. The rest could be swapped out, but the only other players likely to be chosen to sit there are Travis Boyd or Nic Petan.
None of the marginal players in the AHL can fit on the roster. And that’s good. That means the quality of call-ups, should they be required will be high. So no, the Leafs aren’t going to put Marincin on the playing roster or give an NHL contract to Scott Sabourin. They aren’t playing Adam Brooks, and Mac Hollowell can’t earn a spot.
This is a grown up team now, and the chances to earn your way onto the roster at training camp dry up when there are more established core players than actually required. Even Nick Robertson might not be up to the job.