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Nic Petan has been sent to the Marlies as they leave for a road trip this weekend

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What’s behind this somewhat surprising move?

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

In a bit of a surprise, the Maple Leafs have made a roster move that has nothing to do with cap space. They don’t need cap or roster space to activate John Tavares, should he be ready to play this weekend, since he was never on IR or LTIR, and they made a hole big enough for Travis Dermott already.

Nic Petan, who the Leafs are open to trading to a team that has a playing roster spot he could fill, cleared waivers on October 1, was sent to the AHL, and was recalled to the Leafs on October 3 (per Cap Friendly). That means his 29 days of waiver exemption is about to expire. That is likely the biggest motivation behind the move.

The Marlies are on the road this weekend, but tonight’s game is in Belleville, and that barely counts as a trip. Tomorrow’s game is in Laval, and then they have to go to Rockford, Illinois for Wednesday’s game against the IceHogs.

If Petan draws into the lineup, and Sheldon Keefe would surely want a winger of his calibre, he can audition for whatever teams are interested in adding him to the roster, and he wouldn’t have to clear waivers to be sent to a new team’s AHL franchise. That might not be ideal from Petan’s point of view, but it will make him easier to move.

Waiver claim order changes today to the reverse of this year’s standings, so the teams now with the best claims are the worst teams right now. Which means the top three change from Ottawa, LA, New Jersey to Ottawa, New Jersey and LA. Okay, maybe that doesn’t matter much.

With this move, the Leafs still have to cut enough players to make cap space for Zach Hyman when he’s ready to come back.