Today at noon Nick Shore will either be claimed or he will clear waivers. He will join Pierre Engvall, Nic Petan, Ilya Mikheyev, and Martin Marincin as the only players who can be cut from the NHL roster without going on waivers. With Mitchell Marner poised to return to the lineup following his injury and subsequent stint on LTIR, the inevitable cap crunch has finally arrived.

If Marner is activated today, a player can be waived if necessary. They are designated as non-roster and must report to the AHL within 24 hours of clearing waivers, so that would be noon on Friday.

Before we get started, I want to credit CapFriendly for all these numbers. They are an invaluable resource with their pages for the teams, transactions, and Armchair GM tools. I used them all in creating this article.

We assume, with the news that Trevor Moore is expected to miss the next few weeks with his injury, it’s likely that he’ll go on LTIR. He can be placed on LTIR retroactively to the date of his injury and would have to stay off the roster for at least 24 days from that date.

Adding Marner to the roster brings the team to 24 players and $2,182,983 over what the team is allowed to spend. Here’s how much everyone who is eligible to be sent down today makes against the cap. I’m including Mikheyev in this for completeness because he is waivers exempt, even though there’s no way he gets sent down.

  • Ilya Mikheyev - $925,000 (waivers exempt)
  • Pierre Engvall - $925,000 (waivers exempt)
  • Nic Petan - $775,000 (cleared waivers on Nov 8th, under games played limit)
  • Nick Shore - $750,000 (waivers pending 12pm EST)
  • Martin Marincin - $700,000 (cleared waivers on Nov 8th, under games played limit)/

Now, take Mikheyev off this list. At least three of the four remaining players are going to have to go to the Toronto Marlies.

Marincin is the obvious first candidate; he was on the Marlies last weekend and was only called up yesterday to be a spare for the team on the road.

Shore is certainly gone (I’d personally say Shorely, but my editor wouldn’t like that). It would be silly if the Leafs wanted to keep him but risked waivers anyway for no reason.

Maple Leafs waive Nick Shore

That leaves a dogfight between Engvall and Petan, with $732,983 left to cut from a roster size of 22. The demotion of either player would create a cap compliant roster, so this means the Leafs have a choice to make.

Taking away results because it’s a small sample for both, especially in the Sheldon Keefe era, let’s look at how each player is deployed.

Engvall has played all seven of his games on the fourth line and his ice time has slowly gone up with his increased usage on the penalty kill. There is a spot on the fourth line open and he can play the role in that position.

For Petan, he has either been a fill-in on the third line throughout all the injuries and Alexander Kerfoot’s suspension, or he’s been a scratch when the top-nine is intact. He has played half his total minutes this season with Gauthier, but under Keefe, when Jason Spezza is in the lineup, Petan has been a scratch rather than played on the fourth line. In terms of special teams, Petan has been on the second unit.

To me, the situation right now seems clear. Engvall is staying up with the Leafs because he fits the fourth line role better than Petan, who will get ice time on the Marlies and be the first call-up if there’s another injury and an open spot on the roster/third line. He will have to fight with Spezza for games, but can platoon on the third line like they’ve been doing this past week.

When Trevor Moore comes back, it will be a choice between him and Engvall for that spot in the lineup. Sure, the Leafs could waive Timashov or Gauthier, but Moore makes as much as Petan so the math would be the same and losing their cap hits wouldn’t make up the $732,983 difference above. Only one of Engvall or Moore could fit on the roster without having to cut the team down to 20 skaters. The fact that Gauthier and Timashov are making less than $700,000 is saving them from losing their jobs. And in case there’s any argument surrounding their play, Moore requires waivers to be sent to the Marlies, so it’s Engvall who will get the other undeserving boot at that point regardless of how he performs.

Neither of these players deserve to be sent to the AHL, now or in the next couple weeks. Ideally, they would be skating together with Spezza on their right wing or something. They’re fun players, they work hard, and they deserve to play in the NHL. Sadly, with the way the Leafs are cap-wise and with their waiver situations, this is the hard reality they have to live in.

If the salary cap didn’t exist, who would you cut first?

Pierre Engvall34
Nic Petan446
Frederik Gauthier274
Dmytro Timashov307