If you check out the Leafs’ CapFriendly page, you’ll see that they currently have six defensemen considered to be on their NHL roster with contracts: Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev, Travis Dermott, and Connor Carrick.
So, more or less the same mix of guys that ended with the team last year, minus Roman Polak.
Then there are some guys who have NHL contracts, are listed as still having “minors” status, and who might compete for a spot as the Leafs’ 7th D: Justin Holl, Martin Marincin, Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman, and Igor Ozhiganov.
Then you have guys who are longshots to make the NHL this year, for various reasons, who will be (in theory) returning to the Marlies this coming season: Timothy Liljegren, Andrew Nielsen, Vincent LoVerde, and maybe Jesper Lindgren.
Then you have the new arrivals, who were either signed as AHL free agents, or who were just drafted as overagers and may be too good for the OHL if the Leafs want to challenge them: Jordan Subban, Sean Durzi, and Mac Hollowell.
For those of you not counting, that is a total list of 18 defensemen. For, let’s be generous and say 14 spots between the NHL and AHL rosters (including spots in the pressbox).
Most, if not all, of these guys are interesting enough that you’d think the Leafs want to give them playing time, either in general or in terms of specialized roles (PK, PP). It also doesn’t include the myriad of guys the Leafs signed to contracts for the AHL/ECHL to help out the Growlers and maybe fill in on the Marlies if there are injuries to Leafs or Marlies defensemen.
Now there are some ways to solve this problem: you keep Durzi and Hollowell in the OHL for another year, or actually use their shiny new ECHL team for once. Someone like Ozhiganov, Rosen, or Lindgren might see the mass of bodies between them and playing time and decide to jump back to Europe.
But there’s still the matter of ice time and roles. Sure, if all of that happens you can in theory fit everyone between the NHL or AHL, but inevitably you’re going to have guys playing on a third pairing and not getting a primary role on special teams who you might want to get more time in. You might say that’s a good problem to have, but the thing is there aren’t really a lot of high profile names in that list.
Liljegren will get his time for development, but there’s a mass of guys who will be trying to scratch and claw their way to a third pairing depth role: Ozhiganov, Marincin, Rosen, Holl, and Borgman mainly, but the Leafs seem to want to turn Subban into a project as well which means he’s gonna need some ice time too. And that’s seven names just for the Marlies, WITHOUT mentioning Nielsen, Lindgren, or LoVerde!
Who gets PP time? Liljegren almost assuredly, but then who between Rosen and Subban? Or Nielsen even?
Who gets PK time? The Leafs seem to want Borgman to learn that role, and that’s something of Marincin’s specialty too. Maybe the Leafs want to see if they can get Liljegren or Subban or Nielsen to develop into a PK specialist too, especially if they don’t get PP time.
I guess the Marlies will be spoiled for choice as far as quality defensive depth, for the AHL anyways. It’ll be interesting to see how all of that shakes out.
THIS IS ALL I THINK ABOUT NOW THAT NOTHING IS HAPPENING GOD DAMMIT OTTAWA AND MONTREAL AND CAROLINA JUST TRADE YOUR STAR PLAYERS SO WE HAVE SOMETHING REAL TO TALK ABOUT!!!
Now, onto the links.
The basics on NHL contract bonuses | by Katya
The complete Maple Leafs prospect rankings, post-2018 draft edition | by Scarab Wholesaler at the Athletic.
It’s particularly slow for Leafs news, so let’s look around the NHL for something... ANYTHING!
Straw poll of NHL GMs suggests offer sheet drought will continue | by Craig Custance at the Athletic. So much for the Isles “for sure!” offer sheeting Nylander eh?
Ted Lindsay and the life of taking on the good fight | I don’t usually like to link so much to The Athletic because of the paywall, but between Wheeler’s piece on the Leafs and these two by Craig Custance, they’re all worth a read. This one in particular was a pretty great piece.
Have a great Wednesday everybody!