The Leafs today made what are best described as their temporary, final cuts. In other words, the roster is now cap compliant, and has 13F, 8D, 2G, for a total of 23 players, the maximum allowed. Here is a look at what this means now, and in November.
First of all, here is the roster, as it now stands, with the cap situation. Hyman and Dermott are there, but I moved their cap hits over one column, so they don't tally in the formulas. As always, the other guys on LTIR are treated as if they didn't exist.
Liljegren doesn't merit being on the list, and should be playing in the AHL, but for now, he's there. Shore and Timashov are probably the bubble players in the forward ranks, with Korshkov in the AHL one who might merit being up, but he doesn't need waivers, so he loses, for now. All fine, for now, but what happens when Hyman and Dermott return, some time in November?
Liljegren and Dermott make exactly the same salary, so I expect to simply swap out one for the other. No difference, net-net. But they're still $2.1M over the cap with Hyman back, or just under $1.5M over the cap if you send down Timashov. A little lower if you send down Shore. I guess the games played until then will answer who gets sent down. But you'll note that whether it's 1.4 or 1.5 ultimately doesn't matter. They're both numbers that will require TWO guys to get sent down, to get under the cap, so they can have Hyman back in the lineup.
Now, Hyman is a good player, don't get me wrong. He's physical, kills penalties, and even scored 20 last season. But let's also be honest: He's not a gifted scorer or playmaker. He's a dogged forechecker and hard worker. His scoring 20 probably had just a little to do with being on a line with Tavares and Marner. A few shorties in there, too, which comes from good penalty killing, a credit to him. But shorties are fickle - pop a bunch one year, and none the next. So much depends on a lucky shot on that breakaway.
You may have guessed where this is going by now: If Korshkov keeps up the good work in the Marlies, or Timashov and/or Shore pan out, and can PK effectively, Hyman becomes expendable. His 2.25M cap hit is reasonable and he contributes value to the team. But what can you get in return if you trade him? I'm not personally sure, but think a strong prospect, or perhaps a first round pick, is not out of the question, given that he's now a 20-goal man. But significantly, if he can be replaced with an ELC player, they could go with a full lineup, which is more important than commonly appreciated.
The season is long, and players get sick, or banged up, and need some time off. A few days to a week is common. Next are the day-to-day injuries, where Babcock says it's normally 10 days or so. That's when ligaments are sore or swollen, but not damaged. Many concussions fall into this category, where they're not severe, but they require time off. All these players need to stay on the roster, if you want them back once they're healthy. If you're up against the cap, you can't call up a replacement unless you put the guy in question on LTIR.
LTIR requires that team doctors believe recovery will take 24 days or longer. That part can be massaged a little, since team doctors know the stakes. Problem is, once a guy is on LTIR, you lose him for those 24 days and 10 games, whichever is longer (possibly a waiver if that encompasses the annual break, not sure though). So it's almost a month you're without the player in question, when he maybe just needed a week or 10 days. No player is going to want that, and might have the right to grieve the determination. In other words, it might not be something you can pull off. The only other alternative is to go that week or 10 days with a shortened bench. Take your pick - 11 forwards, or 5 D. I'll guess the choice would be 11F, because you can get creative how you use your fourth liners, who don't play nearly to their max. But this being Toronto, how do you think the media will react if they lose a bunch, or have to play back to back games, with a shortened bench? If someone suffers an overuse injury, the nasty stuff will hit the fan.
So with all due respect to Zach, and with fingers pointed squarely at management for getting into this pickle by paying Mitch by far the most of any RFA this year, when he was considered maybe 3rd best, and which they had to do because they overpaid Matthews before him, and caved on Nylander before that, one way they can extricate themselves from this mess of their own making is by trading Zach. Will it happen, and if it does, how does that make Marner look?