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Brooks Laich waived by the Leafs

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Or maybe it’s more accurate to say he was waived by Lou Lamoriello.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs

Bob McKenzie broke the news and then clarified things:

And then he drew in the background.

The quoted tweet:

To be clear, the Athletic interview with Laich was published yesterday. The waivers happened today.

So what is going on?

Seems like some messages are being sent all over the place here. But whoever decided it was a good idea for Laich to air out his unhappiness with life in the AHL by going to the press, be that him or his agent, the waivers look like a message from Lamoriello and it says: don’t do that.

It didn’t help Frank Corrado when he went to the Athletic with his unhappiness, although in that case, it seemed like the Leafs may have genuinely tried to move him when he became surplus to requirements. He didn’t actually come out and ask for a trade via the press either. It’s also not clear if Milan Michalek’s lamentations of regret over waiving his no-trade clause, made to the Athletic earlier in the season, helped him out any. He has been reported as injured at least twice and has played only 16 games, which isn’t going to help get him a trade now or a job in the NHL next year.

In Peter Holland’s case, his agent met with Lamoriello, not the press, and the Leafs subsequently made the only deal they could find for him.

Of course we don’t know what discussions have gone one between Laich, his agent, and Lamoriello. Perhaps using the press to force a move is all he had left as cards to deal.

One card he does not seem to have had at all, the one that would have really helped him out here, is good play in the AHL. Let’s look at his record.

He has played only 16 games in the Marlies lineup this season and was absent from the team rehabbing an unnamed injury over a long Christmas break. Since he’s returned, he’s played regularly, and higher up the lineup than his prior fourth line centre stints, partly due to lack of other options on the team. For a time before Christmas, Laich, Michalek and Colin Greening were the usual fourth line. Greening stuck in the lineup while the other two did not.

Laich has one goal, five assists and 17 shots on goal in those 16 games. His stats are nearly identical to Marc-André Cliche, who actually has one more shot on goal but only three points. Cliche is a former Colorado Avalanche fourth line centre who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2014-15. He is also 29 to Laich’s 33.

If you want a non-scoring depth centre, you could get Cliche and give him an NHL contract for league minimum. You can get Sergey Kalinin for something like Viktor Loov. You can get Ben Smith for nothing on waivers, and both Kalinin and Smith are paid very low salaries.

Laich is in the last year of a contract with a $4.5 million cap hit. As of today, his remaining daily cap hit is $926,944. That means you have to have that much cap space just to put him on your team! Kalinin needs just under $165,000 in space. If a team, cup contender or not, wanted some depth, they could get nearly six players at Kalinin’s salary for what Laich will take up in cap room.

Even if Laich is better than Cliche or Kalinin—he might be to some extent, as he has great positional awareness and doesn’t do foolish things—he’s so wildly overpaid for what he produces, that the only way a team would want him would be if the Leafs retained salary similar to the Michael Stone deal.

The Leafs have only one retained salary on the books, and teams are allowed a maximum of three. If they think they can move some players for real returns this deadline by retaining some salary, they are unlikely to waste a spot on what Laich will bring back, if they could even find a taker.

It’s tough to face the end of your hockey-playing career. And the tradition of veterans who used to be great and are now merely good enough moving to contenders is a long one. That’s the sort of deal a player gets when they have both the bona fides in the NHL and the cachet of a good veteran like Jarome Iginla has. Laich only has the second part of that package.

It’s not impossible someone will take him tomorrow. The NHL is full of GMs who do strange things. But it is highly unlikely.

No one did take him. You can read the second chapter of the Laich saga here.