Connolly waiving next move in a quiet but strong start to the Nonis era


Only one member of LACK remains.

Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle’s first training camp as GM and head coach respectively has seen a no-nonsense approach to putting together Carlyle’s version of the best 23-man Leaf roster, one that must hit the ground running if they’re to surprise in the shortened season.

The purging of Lombardi, and now the placement of Tim Connolly on waivers, is a refreshing sight for many fans; an acknowledgment that the Leafs can’t call it a youth movement if they allow misfit veterans to float around the lineup taking up a spot based on their contract and seniority, getting in the way of youngsters ready to take the next step.

I’ll say this about Connolly: he was probably a little over criticized due to the combination of two things mostly out of his control: his contract and that he didn’t mesh with Kessel and Lupul. The Leafs’ top line wingers play a speed-off-the-rush game and Connolly prefers to hold the puck up and survey his passing options. With the Grabovski line pretty much hammered in stone most of the last two seasons, he was forced down onto the third line where he did most of what was asked of him in a checking and penalty killing role, as much as he wasn’t made for the job.

It all seems to be pointing to Nazem Kadri getting a chance to start with the team and make a claim for permanent graduation. Based on Carlyle’s hints, Kadri currently has the edge over Matt Frattin for a lineup spot for opening night.

If Tim Connolly clears waivers, the Leafs do not get the full $4.75 million in cap savings on account of the new CBA rules surrounding one-way contracts in the minors. It sounds as though the Leafs would only save around $900,000 on the cap (there appears to be a cap forgiveness rule on the first 900k of one-way contracts in the minors), though we can’t be sure until we have the full Memorandum of Understanding to reference. If he is claimed by noon tomorrow (I’d expect him to be, as a team will only be paying him a little over 50% of his owed salary and his contract expires at season’s end), he is off the books and the Leafs are down to 57 million and change on the cap.

An interesting scenario plays itself out if Connolly does clear and head to the minors. The new rules allow a player to be recalled without subjection to re-entry waivers. Connolly’s time in a Leaf uniform isn’t technically, necessarily over yet.

You can call these no-brainer moves that the majority at this site have been calling for since around the midpoint of last season, but Nonis nonetheless is off to a good little start in the GM’s role. The midround draft selection was a pretty good get for Matthew Lombardi, who had yet to show much of anything since returning from a serious concussion. Waiving Connolly didn’t exactly require yeoman’s work on his behalf, but it was the right move from the standpoint of committing to the youth movement, player development and paying more than lip service to the concept of open competition.

Then, of course, there’s what he didn’t do as of yet on the Roberto Luongo trade front. A half-season passing and the new CBA ushering in a reduced cap ceiling next season hasn’t brought about the necessary urgency in Gillis’ head just yet as he’s apparently still asking for the moon.

Of course, this leaves the Leafs with as precarious of a goaltending situation as you can imagine heading into this season, and could ensure a painful upcoming 48 games unless one of them does something special, but it does give Nonis and his staff the opportunity to evaluate Scrivens and Reimer for one more stint before making the decision on who stays and who goes. In a world filled with blue skies, the Leafs emerge out of this season confident they have their future number one goaltender already on the team without having to take on a boat-anchor contract to solve the net issues. A more likely scenario, Nonis is a little more certain on what he needs to do to address the situation and the Leafs are drafting high in June.