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The Toronto Marlies roster will have big changes next season

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Eight players who participated in the Calder Cup Playoffs have left the Maple Leafs organization.

Christian Bonin - TSGPhoto.com

The Toronto Maple Leafs have now likely made most of their roster moves to be ready for next season. The team will have most of the same players on the ice for opening night as it did in last year’s playoffs, though there are a few notable changes, the biggest being adding Patrick Marleau.

On the other hand, one kilometre west on Lake Shore Blvd. at Ricoh Coliseum, we will see a much different Toronto Marlies team on the ice than in last year’s Calder Cup Playoffs.

In a four post series I will walk you through the changes to the team that is critical to developing the future of the Maple Leafs:

  1. Who is gone
  2. Who is new
  3. Who could move up to the Maple Leafs
  4. Whose roles will change

Let’s get started!

Part 1: Who is gone

No less than eight players who appeared in the Marlies’ playoff series last season are now gone from the organization. Some of them played critical roles for the team. It’s going to be a big change for the coaching staff to deal with. Let’s take a closer look at who has moved on.

Brendan Leipsic (LW) - to the Vegas Golden Knights

This is the player Leafs fans are most likely to have heard is leaving. The new Las Vegas NHL team scooped up Leipsic at the Expansion Draft. The Maple Leafs already had a lot of depth at left wing, and now that they have signed Patrick Marleau it’s likely that Leipsic would end up like Josh Leivo and watch a lot of games from the press box.

However, his loss will be a blow to the Marlies. Leipsic had 51 points in 49 games played. He missed almost two months mid-season due to a concussion, but was back and active in the playoffs, scoring four goals in the eleven games.

Good luck in Vegas, Brendan.

We’ll always first remember him for the Watergate scandal when he played in the WHL.

Sergey Kalinin (C) - to SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

Kalinin arrived in the Leafs system in a deadline trade for Viktor Loov with the Devils. There were rumours almost immediately that Kalinin, who was never drafted, would head back to Russia and the KHL where he had already played five seasons. It was all but confirmed when his KHL rights were traded for cash in April. The KHL has now confirmed he will play next season for SKA.

Cal O’Reilly (C) - to the Minnesota Wild

O’Reilly was loaned to the Marlies after the last place Amerks were essentially eliminated from qualifying for the AHL playoffs. Yes, he is the brother of the other O’Reilly playing in the Sabres organization. Now, he has moved on, signing with the Wild on July 1.

With both Kalinin and O’Reilly gone, and Dominic Toninato reportedly not signing with the Leafs, the center position has a hole open for a prospect to move up and take a larger role with the team, at least until Frederik Gauthier returns from injury. Colin Greening has been re-signed, and remains a lock for the position on the team. High scoring AHL veteran Chris Mueller is another new entrant at the position too. More on him in Part 2!

Steve Oleksy (RD) - to the Anaheim Ducks

Oleksy arrived in a deadline trade for Eric Fehr, and noted giant rubber ducky hater and press-box resident Frankie Corrado. Oleksy played with Travis Dermott much of the time after he arrived on the top defensive pairing.

Andrew Campbell (LD) - to the Arizona Coyotes

Campbell has been the Marlies Captain since 2015-16. As a free agent, Campbell chose to return to Arizona, where he played in 2014-15 for both the Coyotes, and their then AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. Campbell had great relationships with his teammates, notably Rich Clune. Clune is, at the least, a candidate to become the next captain.

Campbell’s departure opens up a slot on defence where there is now a logjam of prospects on the depth chart after the arrival of Ron Hainsey bumped many players down.

Seth Griffith (RW) - to the Buffalo Sabres

The Leafs claimed Griffith off waivers at the start of the season from the Bruins, then put him on waivers and lost him to the Florida Panthers, where he sometimes played with Jaromir Jagr (who was drafted three years before Griffith was born). Florida then put him on waivers in January, and the Leafs claimed him again. Griffith was a master of setting up plays, earning 34 assists in the 38 regular season games played, along with another 7 in 11 playoff games.

As PPG leader, this is one of the biggest losses to the team. To add insult to injury, he opted to sign with the Sabres, meaning he may appear against the Maple Leafs, or against the Marlies with the Rochester Americans if he doesn’t stick with the big club. It is not yet clear who can replace him in that role.

Mike Sislo (RW) - to the Arizona Coyotes

Sislo was an AHL veteran who arrived on the Marlies via a loan from the San Antonio Rampage after the Marlies sent them center Colin Smith, an ex-Avalanche prospect. The Coyotes signed Sislo to a new contract on July 1.

Antoine Bibeau (G) - to the San Jose Sharks

Bibeau was not given a Qualifying Offer by the Leafs, and thus became a free agent. He signed with the Sharks on July 1, and is expected to be backup goalie on the San Jose Barracuda who made it to the AHL Western Conference Final last season. Bibeau’s relationship to the Marlies was complicated. He appeared to be a highly favoured option by Head Coach Sheldon Keefe for a long time, and earned praise from Mike Babcock in his brief appearance as the Maple Leafs backup. Suddenly, earlier this year, Garret Sparks made a comeback in the crease, and there was a time he was the one earning high praise from the management.

However, in an unexpected twist, it was ultimately Kasimir Kaskisuo who took the control of the net in the playoffs. It’s difficult to parse out what happened from the outside. Keefe is notoriously tight-lipped about his players’ health. What, if any, injuries specifically happened to Sparks or Bibeau were not disclosed at the time, and we were left to guess what was going on.

In any case, with the re-signing of Curtis McElhinney, and the departure of Bibeau, the Marlies goalie tandem for at least the start of next season looks clear.

Part 2 preview

In Part 2 next week I will look at the new faces expected to join the team for the 2017-18 season. While a lot of offensive firepower has been lost, Marlies General Manager Kyle Dubas has signed reinforcements; some new AHL veterans to assist the rookies in their development as professional hockey players, and as goal scorers. There are also interesting possibilities available for the roster from new prospect signings, like Borgman.