With waivers done, cuts to the Taxi Squad/AHL sorted out, we have our opening night roster:
There are no waivers-exempt defenders or goalies on this roster, and only one forward, Alex Barabanov, who can be moved to the Taxi Squad without having to clear. This roster has cap space of $566,509*.
The Taxi Squad is made up of the following, as reported by CapFriendly:
Toronto Maple #Leafs have opted to start with a 5 player taxi squad:— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 13, 2021
The cost of the Dell gambit by Kyle Dubas is a loss of flexibility in the short term. There are 18 skaters, so they must play every game, and no one is available to fill in for a minor injury. One sort of change can be made, however; Barabanov can be swapped out for a defender, if the team wants to run 11 forwards and seven defenders. He can also be shunted to the squad on off days to accrue cap space.
However, the most minor injury requires the team to play with only 17 skaters. Players who are eligible for LTIR will free up the roster and cap space to add a player, but regular IR only frees a roster slot, and the Leafs don’t have the cap space to call anyone else up. LTIR is only an option for legitimate long-term absences of at least 24 days and 10 games played.
Teams can request “non-roster” status for any player deemed unfit to play by the COVID-19 protocols. In that instance, the player has to come back on the roster the moment they are declared fit, and are not subject to the minimum time away IR requires. This is most likely to be used for players who were close contacts and need to wait out testing time periods in isolation. Non-roster players count against the salary cap, so this doesn’t help the Maple Leafs particularly. Players who test positive for COVID-19 can be immediately placed on LTIR, but they must remain there for the 10 games and 24 days.
These new pandemic problems aside, the main difficulty for teams running short rosters is going to be good old-fashioned injuries and short-term illnesses.
The Dell Gambit could quickly become a Dell Dilemma. It’s awkward to carry three goalies when you aren’t cap crunched to the extent the Leafs are. It’s bordering on impossible to do it long-term with their situation.
There’s nothing about a Taxi Squad that makes this easier. Those players count against the cap if they’re called up to play, and their only value is proximity on the road.
It’s not all that likely that the long-term plan is to run with this roster as is. Once all the teams are settled with their third goalie selected and waived to their own squad, with their backup secure in his job, the Leafs can put Dell through waivers.
You never know what fate will bring you, though. Last year the Leafs were expecting to run a tight roster, to have to use the arcane emergency condition call-up rules and to potentially play shorthanded some of the time. Instead, they spent the entire season with someone on LTIR and unfortunately had space for callups all season long. Counting on that to happen again is hardly how you run a hockey team, however.
We know who is going to start tonight’s game. And then there are 55 more. So how many games will Dell start this year on the Leafs?
How many games will Aaron Dell start for the Leafs
|None, he’s just a backup backup.||452|
|Less than 10, but not zero.||722|
|Less than 20, but more than 10.||27|
* UPDATE: CapFriendly is reporting that Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have a new, higher AAV because of the CBA change of minimum salary:
UPDATE:— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 13, 2021
Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, and Sebastian Aho had their cap hit increased last summer
The NHL raised the min salary in 2023-24+ from $750k to $775k, this resulted in an increased base salary (and cap hit) for these 3 players#Leafs #Canes https://t.co/3B8UOBLIyt pic.twitter.com/Ae0pH4P3nh
This makes the current Leafs cap space $550,259