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Leafs make significant cuts ahead of season opening

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced a wave of roster decisions on Monday morning, sending 14 players to the Toronto Marlies via either direct assignment, or intent to place on waivers at noon today.

The players on NHL contracts who will report directly to the Marlies include Timothy Liljegren, Teemu Kivihalme, Mac Hollowell, Pierre Engvall, and Joey Anderson. Justin Brazeau, Rourke Chartier, and Scott Sabourin will also report directly to the Marlies, on AHL contracts. Lastly, Kenny Agostino, Tyler Gaudet, Michael Hutchinson, Martin Marincin, Nic Petan, and Calle Rosen will be placed on waivers. Adam Brooks and Travis Boyd have also been placed on waivers, but have not been assigned to the Marlies.

The most notable of these decisions are likely the direct assignment of Pierre Engvall, and the waiving of Martin Marincin.

Engvall, entering the first year of a two-year contract that pays him a little over the buriable threshold at a $1.25 million AAV, disappointed in training camp, scoring a goal in the televised Blue and White scrimmage but not bringing much more to the table throughout the week, something that head coach Sheldon Keefe pointed out in post-game media availability. Engvall finished the 2019/20 season with just one goal in his final 30 games, and one point in his final 25 – a tally against David Ayres in /that/ game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

It’s likely that Engvall would have been afforded some lenience in a different contract situation, but his waiver-exempt status gave the Leafs more options. For the sake of getting him back on track, this could actually be a good thing for the 24-year-old Swede. While the Marlies are still a few weeks out from starting their season, this gives him the chance to play big minutes in game situations rather than sitting around on the taxi squad, opening up the possibility of getting him back on track and back on the NHL roster before the end of the year.

On Marincin’s end, I suppose this is only surprising in the sense that he remains an immortal property in the Leafs organization. Going through waivers was always going to happen in his case, given the defensive depth, but the initial expectation was that it would be as part of the taxi squad wave, rather than the Marlie-assignment wave. What this says to me is that Rasmus Sandin played well enough in camp to get a more serious look ahead of opening night.

Realistically, I’d expect Marincin to clear, as he has many times before, as his playstyle isn’t one that most NHL teams seem to enjoy, despite getting results that lineup up with viable NHL depth. His willingness to play, sit in the press box, or drop back to the Marlies has made him a useful asset in the organization and I’d expect that he’ll play a significant role in their Top 4 while waiting for his next opportunity.

The body of transactions puts Toronto at a 26 man roster. In my Taxi Squad breakdown piece from December, I projected that they’ll eventually trim down to 21 + taxis to get under the salary cap ceiling, and I expect that this will remain the case.

As for which five will be the next to get assigned, the easiest initial bets will likely come from those who don’t require waivers – that list includes Sandin, Nick Robertson, and at least one of Alex Barabanov and Mikko Lehtonen.  Adam Brooks being waived but not assigned leads me to believe that he is the likely replacement for Engvall on the Taxi Squad, and Travis Boyd’s strong performance on Saturday likely buys him an initial Taxi Squad spot as well.


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