Despite a solid preseason, Sam Lafferty has turned into a cap casualty, off-loaded to Vancouver for a fifth-round pick. Among the Leafs placed on waivers today are defenseman Simon Benoit and goaltender Martin Jones.

The Leafs’ cap and roster situation combined with Lafferty’s $1.15 million cap hit seems to have put him in an impossible situation barring an injury circumstance that would’ve created more space. He showed well in preseason on John Tavares’ line and on the penalty kill (scoring a shorthanded goal), and his speed is an asset in the bottom six for a team that has lost some of its pace down the lineup over the past few years (with the likes of Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall departing).

That said, production-wise, Lafferty has not clearly established himself as a top-nine player in the league, and it’s not as though the Leafs are totally without depth on the RW. Nick Robertson will start with the Marlies (as will Alex Steeves) and has spent time on the right, and if Fraser Minten does stick with the Leafs for the time being, it bumps William Nylander back to the RW as well.

Most likely, the Leafs are soon going to get a fairly comparable player (albeit different handedness) in Noah Gregor under contract for a few hundred thousand less than Lafferty makes, and the margins are tight enough for the Leafs’ cap situation that the difference of a few hundred thousand really does matter. With Lafferty gone and Gregor penciled in at around $800k, they can carry an extra body now on the active roster versus constantly being up against it/handcuffed by a bare minimum 20-man roster.

A Cap-Compliant 21-Man Roster 

Note: Bobby McMann is listed as the extra below as a placeholder

Total Cap Space: $144,000

The big questions/debates looking ahead to Monday include A) official confirmation on whether Minten is sticking with the big club to start the year, and B) if Minten is sticking, whether or not the Leafs traded away a decent veteran NHL forward who can give them solid role minutes over 82 games + playoffs in Lafferty in order to keep an impressive rookie who may or may not survive past the nine-game mark or the 40-game mark as the real games start and the grind of an NHL season unfolds.

The pro side of the argument for keeping Minten is that there is decent veteran NHL depth readily available at every trade deadline for the kind of mid-round pick they just acquired from Vancouver in exchange for Lafferty, and rewarding Minten — while seeing if he can be an everyday contributor for them as a natural C given the promise he has shown in preseason — is worthwhile.

One name notably absent from the Leafs’ list of waiver-bound players today is Bobby McMann. His injury rehab has made him an after-thought this camp, but he was the team’s best call-up option at forward at points last season and offers a unique package of size and speed. He tore the AHL apart to the tune of 21 goals in 30 games last season, albeit he is now 27 years old, so he’s far from a prospect and it’s hard to know how much room for growth there still is in his overall game (plus there are the ongoing injury concerns). He remains on the NHL roster for now, although he may be headed to either waivers or the IR shortly.

The Leafs will now wait and see if they can keep Martin Jones in the organization as veteran goalie insurance (and if Simon Benoit clears waivers so he can join the Marlies as left-defense depth, but he’ll probably be less in demand than Jones). Fingers crossed.