Jeff Finger returns to the line-up tonight in Detroit in what many will suggest is his Maple Leafs swan song/final pit stop en route to the Marlies. Burke is saying the right things about Finger’s right to a “fair look” and the importance of respecting players acquired via free agency as it relates to organizational reputation. But the realities are this: the Leafs are sitting with both Brett Lebda and Finger on the outside of their top six, over the cap by around $300k and uncomfortably close even with Lashoff and his $550k assigned to the Marlies. And that’s assuming Nazem Kadri and his $1.7 million cap hit will not be a part of the roster come opening night. If it’s important to show respect to signed free agents, surely Lebda won’t be Marlie-bound after his first training camp as a Leaf. Simply, something has to give, and the $3.5 million Finger, a Leaf of two seasons now, seems the obvious candidate for demotion.
Where it gets interesting is that Burke is a player’s GM. Justin Pogge’s opportunity was no longer in Toronto, so he accommodated Pogge’s exit and found him a new chance in Anaheim. Staffan Kronwall couldn’t gain traction on the Leaf roster with so many bodies on the backend so he was passed through re-entry waivers in hopes of finding the blueliner a new opportunity (he was claimed by Washington). A Kronwall-like, re-entry waivers maneuver comes with a heftier cost in Finger’s case as the Leafs would have to assume half of the cap hit ($1.75 million). We can never say never after the Jason Blake trade, but that route can only be described as a dead end. It should be interesting to see how this plays out. What could make matters more interesting is if Finger shows well this weekend.
Jussi Rynnas has been recalled from the Marlies to play the full 60+ tonight, as Giguere gets the night off after playing Wednesday and Gustavsson continues to nurse a “minor” groin ailment. Clarke MacArthur and Luke Schenn also remain out with groin and back issues respectively. Korbinian Holzer has been recalled as an extra body for the weekend according to The Star.
Tonight of course is one of two big nights for Kadri as his stages his attempt at a late preseason surge in hopes of securing a spot in the October 7th line-up. John Mitchell gets his shot at staying in the picture for the third line centre spot.
Here is the full line-up for tonight per Leafs Beat:
Versteeg Bozak Kessel
Kadri Grabovski Kulemin
Sjostrom Mitchell Armstrong
Brown Hanson Caputi