Nic Petan, Martin Marincin waived as Toronto Maple Leafs prepare roster for Zach Hyman’s return

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers
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With Zach Hyman set to return from long-term injury reserve in the coming days, the paring-down of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ roster has begun, as the club has placed Martin Marincin and Nic Petan on waivers as of Noon ET on Thursday.

With at least one more decision to come, it’s not surprising that Leafs brass placed Petan and Marincin on waivers first. Both have successfully passed through waivers in the past and they are the most disposable pieces of the rotating cast at the bottom of the lineup.

The Leafs are in a good place with their forward wing depth organizationally, and they also have options on the left side of their defense. The organization is strong on the left with Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Travis Dermott; should one fall to injury, they have Rasmus Sandin (ELC) able to come up freely and fill in capably. Kevin Gravel and Ben Harpur are also available to be recalled. Odds are, though, Marincin will pass through without claim.

The difficult decision comes next. Nick Shore has become a regular for Mike Babcock and Dave Hakstol on the fourth line, the penalty kill, and as a right-side faceoff taker in the defensive zone, a role in which he offers more utility than Jason Spezza. However, Spezza is the better candidate to fill in at center on a scoring line in the case of a key injury. Both players can also fill in on the wing if need be.

That leaves the youngest asset in Dmytro Timashov as the other option to trade or waive, and he has flashed enough promise in the first month that the Leafs won’t feel good about making him available to all 30 rival teams or trading him for peanuts, either.

This is the bind that Leafs management put themselves in by running themselves up against the ceiling of the salary cap upper limit with the Mitch Marner contract — they could lose pieces of useful NHL depth they’ll need over a long 82-game season and (hopefully) playoff run.

However, if they can successfully pass Nic Petan, Martin Marincin, and potentially one other through waivers before Hyman returns, they will have the ability to bring these players back up for up to a month (30 days) or ten games without the player requiring waivers again to return to the AHL.

Once the Leafs are down to their 21-man roster to accommodate Hyman’s cap hit, the options in the case of multiple future injuries are to either use LTIR again (in cases where the injured player or players are going to be out for a significant amount of time) or to use the “roster emergency” exception.

For emergency recalls under this exception, the called-up player is exempt from the cap until the team is healthy enough to field 20 players, but the player must make under $800,000 AAV. The team also must first play one game with 19 players or fewer on the roster before they can initiate the roster emergency exception — meaning, should disaster strike, we could see the Leafs go with 12 forwards and five defensemen for one game before they can call up a defenseman on an emergency basis.

It’s notable that all of Dubas’ offseason signings in Pontus Aberg, Tyler Gaudet, Kenny Agostino, Garrett Wilson, and Kevin Gravel fall under the $800k salary threshold. Trade acquisitions Jordan Schmaltz and Ben Harpur do as well. The Leafs were anticipating this problem and added a lot of ‘tweener’ talent that can take a shift in the big leagues to cheap NHL contracts.

What we haven’t mentioned here yet is the possibility of a larger trade to move out cap dollars — many will mention Cody Ceci’s name here — but that’s difficult to picture at this time of the season and with Ceci playing significant minutes on the right side for the Leafs.

There are avenues for Kyle Dubas, Brandon Pridham and co. to make it all work, but the chickens are certainly coming home to roost with the Leafs’ cap jam.