Martin Marincin’s brief renaissance as an NHL defenseman appears to have come to an end. Earlier today, the Leafs reported that he had been sent down to the minors, with Travis Dermott taking his place.
Dermott was one of the final cuts of training camp, and had a case to be the Leafs’ seventh defenseman on merit. When he was sent down, part of the rationale appeared to be that there was little use in having him in the pressbox as opposed to playing competitive games with the Toronto Marlies. Given that, you’d expect Dermott to draw in for the Leafs sooner rather than later, unless this is just a reward for his good AHL performance and a chance to give him an NHL paycheck for a little bit. There may also be some waiver considerations here — more on that later. First, let’s discuss Dermott as a player.
Dermott is a left-shot, but has played the right side in the AHL when paired with Andrew Nielsen. This helps his chances of getting into the lineup, as the Leafs are far weaker on the right side of defense, especially with Nikita Zaitsev’s injury. Dermott has recorded an impressive 17 points in 26 games as a 21-year-old (a young 21-year-old at that — his birthday is in December).
While he has struggled at times with his discipline, Dermott has been an excellent player for the Marlies, and someone who fans have been clamouring to call up for a while, given the Leafs’ defensive struggles. We’ll see how he acquits himself going forward if he gets into a game. Toronto has three games before they hit their bye week, after which Zaitsev may be back, and it remains to be seen how the defense will be shuffled upon his return.
Another consideration is that Dermott is waiver-exempt, while Marincin is not. When Marincin was called up, he could be on the roster for 29 days or 9 games (whichever comes first) before requiring waivers to send him down again. These counts are cumulative, so the next time Marincin is called up, this set of days/games count to those limits. In that sense, they are making sure that Marincin is not accruing days to that limit while he sits in the pressbox, and protecting him as an asset (albeit, not a terribly important one).
With Dermott, no such concerns exist — he will not have to pass through waivers to go to the AHL, however long the Leafs keep him up. As such, it is very possible the Leafs park him in the press box for three games (until they hit their bye), and send him down once Zaitsev is healthy.
Leafs fans will surely be eager to see Dermott get into the action, though I would caution them to temper expectations. Babcock will likely use him in a very sheltered and low-minute role initially, if he uses him at all, so he’s not going to transform the defense overnight. Nonetheless, it’ll be good to get a glimpse of a player who could be important for the Leafs in the future.