The Toronto Maple Leafs announced five transactions today, calling two players up from the Toronto Marlies to the taxi / “stay ready” squad – Scott Sabourin and Martin Marincin. In exchange, they’ve sent three down from the taxi squad to the Marlies – Nick Robertson, Adam Brooks, and Rasmus Sandin.

Depending on where you stand on things, some of this news may come as a bit of a surprise, as some of the young names going down were early fan favourites, and the names going up include a polarizing talent in Marincin and a fringe player in Sabourin. With that said, this seems to line up with sensible decision making.

In Robertson’s case, he was given an opportunity to crack the NHL roster to start the year, but his debut-night knee injury threw a wrench in his timeline. He’ll need some time to get back up to speed, and getting extra, more offensively-tuned minutes on the at the AHL level will likely help get him there. The impressive starts of other taxi squad players like Travis Boyd and Nic Petan have helped facilitate the decision, buying him the necessary time. Since the OHL is pushing towards a bubble season and this would re-activate the CHL transfer agreement, which Robertson is exempt from at the moment, expect this to be a short to medium-term move rather than a long one.

Fans of Sandin will likely be a little disappointed in the news of him going down, but he’s in a similar boat in terms of needing minutes. At 20, soon to be 21, he’s still relatively green in terms of experience and has yet to have a full season in his pro career – playing 57 regular season and playoff games in 2018/19, and 49 in 2019/20. Sandin has played 1 of the Leafs’ 14 games this season, and while he picked up a secondary assist on an Auston Matthews goal on February 6th, the team was decidedly outshot while he was on the ice. Swapping him with Marincin may be the less likeable move, but the tangible difference in ability in the present is minimal, and it’s better for the Sandin’s long-term aspirations to play as a top-pair option on the Marlies than sit left-press-box on the Leafs.

The fewest qualms will be had about Brooks’ assignment, though that might be the one that has the biggest impact on the Marlies roster. The team remains short on forwards and getting back a player who had looked like a legitimate AHL top-line centre before injury last year is a huge injection. In his one game with the Leafs this season, he picked up a goal, but did not move the needle enough in other ways to earn more time.

Sabourin coming up will irk some as well, as the veteran winger just got promoted from an AHL contract last week and does not appear to have the talent to keep up with the club. With that said, a scenario like this is one I pointed out as a possibility when the signing happened:

Not only [are the Marlies] now in a spot where they’re likely going to be looking for local talent without NHL contracts, but they’re also in a spot where they can’t afford to lose anyone to another team. Signing him to this deal prevents another team from picking him off with a similar NHL contract offer – say, closer-to-home Montreal, or the already-familiar Senators. Another option along the same lines would be to keep Sabourin on the fringes of the taxi squad, and take a player like Adam Brooks, Pierre Engvall, or a re-activated Robertson back down to the Marlies to inject them with some skill.

I would be surprised if we saw Sabourin draw into games in the immediate future. He is, for all intents and purposes, being used as a safety valve that allows the AHL club to have more talent up front.

Ontario Games Are A Go

The Marlies also recieved some good news yesterday afternoon, as Ontario’s Minister of Sport Lisa MacLeod green-lit the ability for them and the Belleville Senators to play games in the province.

There was some worry about whether the province would allow for the two teams to play home games, as it could open a slippery slope for approval. It appears that the route they’ve chosen is to treat these teams as extensions of their NHL parent clubs, who have done what appears to be a good job in preventing spread to date. The only positive case in the Canadian NHL division to date belongs to Jesse Puljujarvi of the Edmonton Oilers, who are not participating in the Canadian AHL division and remaining in Bakersfield.

This news will not impact the Marlies’ plans for Feburary, as they’ve already scheduled eight games against Manitoba and Stockton-Calgary to close out the month. We could, however, see home games as early as the beginning of March, which would likely be announced in the next week or two.

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Leafs swap Taxi Squad and AHL players, Marlies get home game clearance