Full Waivers:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 12, 2021
Victor Mete (Mtl) claimed by Ottawa
Sami Vatanen (NJ) claimed by Dallas
Alex Biega (Det), Danny Dekeyser (Det), Josh Healey (Nas) and Cody Goloubef (Ott) all clear
Ottawa claimed Victor Mete and Dallas claimes Sami Vatanen, and interestingly, just before all that happened, this statement was made:
They’re low on the priority list, but I believe the Toronto Maple Leafs are mulling a Victor Mete claim.— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) April 12, 2021
Ottawa could simply keep Mete and work on seeing if he’s got more than Montreal could find in him. Or they could trade him in the next three hours.
The day before the trade deadline is a day to take a close look at who teams choose to waive. As they make room for planned new additions, they’re desire to hang onto players who might be claimed hits an all-time low. It’s not a surprise that all the players waived this Sunday are defenders.
Waivers today:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 11, 2021
Alex Biega (Det), Danny Dekeyser (Det), Victor Mete (Mtl), Sami Vatanen (NJ), Josh Healey (Nas), Cody Goloubef (Ott)
Detroit moving some defenders through waivers does two things for them. It clears up some roster room for player they might get in trade as contract dumps or as payment for the use of their cap space. But it also makes those defenders more valuable in trade. A team with a tight salary cap can wait and see if they clear, and then trade a low-level pick for them, and store them on their Taxi Squad ready to be called up only once the playoffs start, and the salary cap goes away.
Biega is an expiring UFA, DeKeyser has another year at $5 million, and is less likely to be of interest, Sami Vatanen is an expiring UFA who had a good playoffs last year and has had a bad season this year. The other two, Healey and Goloubef are AHL players just signed to NHL contracts that have to clear waivers to go back to the AHL. That signals that both of those teams are at least considering trading some defenders away tomorrow.
And of course, Victor Mete is on this list too. He’s the most interesting player here, although you might expect him to be no better than Vantanen is these days. But he’s young, cheap and on an expiring contract. The fact that Montreal is waiving him indicates they are looking to add a higher-end defender tomorrow. And they really should look into Erik Gudbranson or Rasmus Ristolainen — proven top-four performers.
The Tampa Bay Lightning set the price for a legitimate top-four defender when they paid a first and more for David Savard and some heavy salary retention. The Leafs aren’t in a position to do that even if they thought they should. They seem pretty happy with Justin Holl right now. But they’re a little weak in the sixth, seventh or eighth defender territory.
I might put in a claim for Victor Mete, he looks like a #4 sort of defender; only 22. pic.twitter.com/xs3FWmQ2aC— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 11, 2021
Mete is not a top-four guy, in my opinion, and that mention above is a too-sunny outlook on the player. But just the fact that he’s likely a servicable replacement level defender when he was a fourth-round draft pick should make Montreal happy to have him, but they don’t seem to every be happy with players that are just as good as they are. Mete is not an offensive force at all, but has some real-looking good defensive results, and a lot of NHL experience.
At 22, about to turn 23, Mete’s not likely to take a big step in development, but he might benefit highly from a different team. He’s on a one-year show-me contract post-ELC of $735,000, and he expires as an RFA without arbitration rights. He has never gone through waivers since he lost his exemption.
It seems highly unlikely he won’t get claimed by someone, but consider it as a thought experiment: Should the Leafs claim him, as a low cost depth option?
That’s really impossible for me to guess at, because I don’t know their other plans or goalie needs. If they did, and somehow won the claim, which would be a bit of a surprise, they’d have to keep him around for the rest of the season on the roster. They can do this, particularly if they keep Andersen on LTIR for the rest of the season, but it’s not an ideal use of that cap room right now.
No, the only scenario that really brings Mete back together with his Knights teammate Mitch Marner is if he clears, and the Leafs can make one of theose low-level pick trades. Then he’d be ideal. He might be ideal for other teams too because he meets the exposure requirements for the expansion draft and would simply need a contract for next season at a similarly modest amount to what he’s paid now to fill that role. Extra defenders are hard to find homes for right now because most teams figure they’d just lose them in the expansion draft, but not everyone is oversupplied with players they want to keep.
Nothing about the prospect of a player called servicable is exciting, but some deadline moves are very unexciting and still necessary.
What about Sami Vantanen? At $2 million in cap hit, he’s a total no thanks for a team operating in LTIR. That space needs to go to the important acquisitions.
We’ll all find out tomorrow at noon the fate of all of these defenders. But it’s fun to consider in the meantime.