Toronto Maple Leafs vs Ottawa Senators
7 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena, SN1
Opponent’s site: Silver Seven Sens
Ottawa has to be getting as sick of us as we are of them. The Leafs beat them in two games so far, allowing only one goal against, they lost Colin White to a freak injury in a Leafs game, and they play the Leafs twice for real in the first week of the season, next Thursday and Saturday. For now, there’s one more fake game to get through before all the roster cuts.
The Senators leveraged White’s injury into an opportunity to just clear the cap floor by signing Tyler Ennis to a $900,000 contract. They might make some changes to their large number of waivers exempt players, but they can’t cut below 23 plus White, not until they make a deal with Brady Tkachuk. He’s not shown any willingness to commit long term to the team at a price set now, with a tight cap. Okay, tight for everyone else, not the Senators, but it’s hard to blame him for wanting a bridge that can either lead to more money or a different team.
This sets the Senators up to play tonight with something like their regular season roster. Lines are yet to be announced.
The Leafs have a small handful of extra players still on the roster, every one of whom can play at the NHL level without embarrassing anyone. The choices they’re making are more about precisely who to put where on the periphery for now, with some opportunities for multiple different callups.
This is all assuming, of course, that Auston Matthews is going to be healthy enough to play on opening night. He is not playing in this game tonight, but he is expected to be ready for Wednesday.
Assume someone, maybe Brooks, is playing in place of Matthews:
The Leafs practiced with so many line combinations in their retreat to Gravenhurst this week, that the configurations for tonight could be almost anything, and might change in-game. The second line left wing spot is the only significant open roster spot, with a host of options for the bottom six — some bordering on the absurd, like Alexander Kerfoot as the 4C.
They also played with a third defensive pair of Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, raising a lot of hopes, and — one presumes — making Travis Dermott very determined to be in the games, not watching the games. It does look like the very first roster we’ll see might have these seven defencemen.
Can you play your way onto the roster on the last day of preseason? Probably not. You might be able to play your way off, though.
What’s really at stake in this game is not much more than 13 minutes of ice time instead of 11 for a couple of players. I find it very hard to believe the 12 forwards who matter haven’t been settle on already. All of this carrying on for two minutes more seems a bit absurd, but the money and security that comes with those two extra minutes over the course of the next five years is significant. For a few players here, they are contesting for the coveted job of not playing at all. That delightful feature of the NHL where a seat in the pressbox is better than games in the AHL. It pays better for a lot of players, as well. But will that be Travis Dermott to begin? It may well be.
For one last time where it doesn’t matter: Go Leafs Go!