Unlike nearly every other team in the NHL, the Leafs never seem to move players up and down between the NHL and the AHL. They just stockpile the extras in the press box pending a trade or two each year of depth players who are only famous when they aren’t playing in Toronto and forgotten once they leave.
That’s how I started last year’s story on the Holiday Roster Freeze. If anything has changed, hopefully forever, on the Leafs, it’s this. Now we need to pay attention to the roster freeze because it has a lot of implications for moving players around (onto LTIR and off) as well as up and down.
d) Holiday Roster Freeze.
(i) For all Players on an NHL Active Roster, Injured Reserve, or Players with Non-Roster and Injured Non-Roster status as of 11:59 p.m. local time on December 19, a roster freeze shall apply through 12:01 a.m. local time December 28, with respect to Waivers, Trades and Loans; provided, however, that Players may be Recalled to NHL Clubs during this period and, provided further, that if a Player is placed on Regular Waivers prior to the roster freeze period and is claimed during such roster freeze period, the roster freeze period shall not apply and the Player shall immediately report to the claiming Club. However, during the roster freeze period a Club can make any Player transactions necessary for the Club to come into compliance with Article 50 as a result of a Player being removed from the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception.
(ii) Notwithstanding Section 16.5(d)(i), a Player on emergency Recall may be Loaned during the roster freeze period and a Player who was Recalled after December 11 may be Loaned through 11:59 p.m. local time on December 23, provided such Player is not required to be placed on Waivers during the roster freeze period in order to effectuate such Loan.
(iii) No later than ten (10) days before the holiday roster freeze, the League shall provide the NHLPA with a holiday roster freeze and restricted day memorandum.
Okay! Is it the seemingly random capital letters or is it the endless strings of clauses that makes this all sound like it’s actually in German? There’s a few things that are relevant to the Leafs particular situation this year so, beginning with the simple parts of this and moving into the less simple:
This is the Taylor Hall part of this explanation, but it also applies to fantasy Leafs trades that we all think up (Tyson Barrie to the Flames for Rasmus Andersson). You can’t trade a guy from midnight on December 18 to Midnight on December 27. That’s the whole rule.
This is the same as the trades rule. You can’t waive a player for any reason between those dates.
The Giant Exception
Yeah, except that isn’t the rule.
However, during the roster freeze period a Club can make any Player transactions necessary for the Club to come into compliance with Article 50 as a result of a Player being removed from the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception.
Basically, this is the LTIR flame thrower to thaw that freeze in seconds. The Leafs have one player on LTIR who is eligible to return before the freeze is over (under the rules that require a player to spend 24 days and 10 NHL games on LTIR). That’s Trevor Moore, and depending on what date the Leafs backdated his assignment to (they placed him on LTIR a few days after his injury) he should be eligible to return on December 12.
Andreas Johnsson can’t come back until the game on New Year’s Eve, so he’s definitely frozen for a few weeks.
If, for the sake of argument, Trevor Moore was well enough to come off LTIR on December 20, the Leafs could make any moves they wanted to make cap space for him. Rumour has it he’s likely to come back this coming week, but there’s nothing about the freeze that is forcing them to bring him back early or anything silly like that.
The Small Exception
Players you have on your roster under Emergency Recall (governed by the rules which allow you to designate a recalled player an emergency replacement for an injured player) can be sent back to the AHL during the freeze. None of the players currently on the NHL roster are there as Emergency Recalls.
The December 11 Rule
Consider Pontus Aberg. If he stays on the Leafs roster past the start of the freeze, that’s it, barring the big LTIR exception, he’s on the NHL roster until December 28. If he’d been called up after December 11, however, he’d be fair game to get punted back to the AHL to play for the Marlies in the Boxing Day Game.
Last year, Trevor Moore was sent back on December 24 for that very reason because his recall to the Leafs had only occurred one day before. Then he never even played in the game on Boxing Day and was called right back up. Some teams do that to cheap out the players and pay them less while banking a little cap space, but the Leafs have no reason to be doing that this year.
You might be asking yourself right now if players like Nic Petan, Pontus Aberg, Pierre Engvall and Martin Marincin might get “papered down” to the AHL on December 11, and recalled the next day in order to make demotions during the freeze period possible. The schedule works out for that, with the 11th being a travel day between Vancouver and Calgary, so we might see some of that. All of those players have currently active exemptions from waivers.
If Moore is coming off LTIR for the game on December 12, as has been speculated, someone has to get sent down for real.
The WJC Wrinkle
The Leafs have to loan Rasmus Sandin to Team Sweden before the freeze kicks in too. So at some point between now and December 17, he’ll be sent off to camp.
Any NHL-contracted player in the ECHL or AHL can’t be moved around after the freeze starts either, since those reassignments are done by the NHL team and are subject to this rule. With the Marlies operating at “lose one player per game to injury” pace, they’ll want to consolidate their rosters in this coming week.
Much like how holiday shopping heats up this week, the roster moves do too. Trades in this period sometimes heat up too as teams look to shore up their AHL team or even plug a hole in the NHL roster. The Leafs traded away Peter Holland and Josh Leivo in early December, so no one should sit comfortably in the press box for this next 10 days.