The trade deadline was a very stressful time for the fans and members of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. And while the Newfoundland Growlers are happily at the top of their division, neither the NHL or AHL team have met expectations in terms of results this season.
Leafs fans have been begging for trades for the defense, both buying and selling as the mood around the team crashes back and forth like waves every other night. Marlies fans have almost been begging to be put out of their misery.
They’ve had to endure a team that gets outshot every night, sprinkling shards of hope between large stretches of mediocrity. It’s almost been torture as their team struggles to show any kind of consistency for more than a period or two.
The Marlies have largely been an evolution of the team that was built to win the 2018 Calder Cup (which they did). 2018-19 was mostly the same roster, with the top players moving up and the rest shifting to fill bigger shoes.
That mostly worked, but the talent pool by 2019-20 was so diluted with the remains of a once dominant hockey club that change really needed to be made. Holding leads and getting outshot slowly turned into getting outshot and needing to make a comeback. The forwards weren’t as dangerous, the defense not as air-tight, and the goaltending couldn’t make up the shortfalls.
But then the trade deadline came, and while mildly disappointing in terms of big moves on the Leafs front (what do you mean Calle Rosen isn’t a big deal?), the Marlies seem to have gotten a great injection of fresh blood. But more importantly, there were some specific changes to position allocation that I think really seem to have balanced this team much better.
Let’s get into it, starting with who’s left. I’ve placed the league where these players are playing this season next to their names because it will be important later. These are not references to the type of contracts.
Mason Marchment (AHL)
Darren Archibald (AHL)
Aaron Luchuk (ECHL)
Nicholas Baptiste (AHL)
Ben Harpur (AHL)
Jordan Schmaltz (AHL)
Michael Hutchinson (NHL)
Denis Malgin (NHL)
Max Veronneau (AHL)
Miikka Salomaki (AHL)
Matt Lorito (AHL)
Calle Rosen (NHL/AHL)
Trent Bourque (ECHL)
Miles Gendron (ECHL)
No one, unless you want to count Robin Lehner.
So doing some quick math, that’s four forwards out, four in. Two defensemen out, three in. And one goalie out. That doesn’t seem like structural change, but once you look at which league everyone is playing in, then things start to come together.
On net, the Leafs added a forward to their NHL team, while the Growlers lost a forward. Importantly for the Marlies, they swapped two vets and a post-prospect player. Good business for the Leafs and the Growlers can absorb the loss once some injuries clear up.
For the Marlies, they get three new faces who can confidently play in the AHL every night for them. That’s important because about a quarter to a half of the Marlies this season have played like ECHLers.
This move tells me the Marlies are preparing to send some of their players who started in the ECHL back once injuries to Nic Petan, Kalle Kossila, and Adam Brooks clear up. Scott Pooley might be able to stick on the Marlies, but more recent call-ups like Giorgio Estephan and Riley Woods might not last. Let’s also not forget that the team is expected to get a flurry of PTO and ATO players as junior, college, and European hockey comes to an end.
Long story short, the Marlies made upgrades, or at the very least changes, here.
Harpur and Schmaltz never worked out here. It was apparent within the first month of them being on the team, and it was really only a matter of time before we saw some changes. The Marlies were pretty heavy in terms of their depth at defense. Joseph Duszak and Mac Hollowell were moved to the Growlers for most of the season in order to give them regular ice time. Even with the long-term injury to Kevin Gravel, second-pair defender Jesper Lindgren found himself a scratch on nights where the Marlies needed to give everyone else some minutes.
With Duszak, Hollowell, and Michael Kapla up with the Marlies now, the team had to restock the Growlers with at least two top-four bodies. The additions of Bourque and Gendron indicate strongly that the Marlies are keeping Duszak and Hollowell for the rest of the season. Kapla should go back once Lindgren returns from injury and Calle Rosen comes back from his 2018 Marlies Defense Reunion Tour with the Leafs.
The Marlies are lighter at the moment (literally and figuratively), but they should end up with a pretty good group of around eight guys if/when the injury bug ever leaves the Leafs.
There was some confusion on Monday when the Edmonton Oilers traded for Growlers goalie Angus Redmond while he was on loan from the Anaheim Ducks organization. We weren’t sure if he was going to leave his loan and report to the Oilers organization, but it turns out Redmond is still on the Growlers roster.
With Hutchinson traded for Rosen, and Kasimir Kaskisuo injuring his hand during practice early in the week, the Marlies suddenly looked really thin on goaltending. Luckily, with Redmond holding the fort in the ECHL, the Marlies didn’t have to feel too bad about calling up Parker Gahagen from the ECHL to backup Joseph Woll for Wednesday morning’s game.
So, after all this roster and trade craziness, here is where the Marlies stand.
Kenny Agostino - Tanner MacMaster - Pontus Aberg
Matt Lorito - Riley Woods - Egor Korshkov
Miikka Salomaki - Tyler Gaudet - Matt Read
Rich Clune - Hudson Elynuik - Max Veronneau
Nic Petan (inj) - Kalle Kossila (inj) - Adam Brooks (inj)
Teemu Kivihalme - Joseph Duszak
Kevin Gravel - Michael Kapla
Kristians Rubins - Mac Hollowell
Calle Rosen (NHL) - Jesper Lindgren (inj)
Kasimir Kaskisuo (inj)
The AHL trade deadline is on March 2nd (next Monday) so the Marlies can still make moves, they just won’t involve anyone on an NHL contract. Eemeli Rasanen was the first player to join the Marlies on a PTO last season on March 15th. The KHL regular season ends today, with playoffs beginning soon, and the other leagues will soon follow.
The Marlies regular season ends on April 11th and the team is two points out of a playoff spot with 21 games left in their season to pass Laval and Syracuse (they have three games in hand on both of them). The playoffs are definitely possible after a season where not many people expected them to get there.