The Toronto Maple Leafs have used the waiver wire over the past couple of years to make small improvements to the team, but how has it worked out for them?
The waiver wire is usually a crap shoot where teams hope to add depth or fill a necessary void without giving up assets to the other team. Teams do not expect these players to be lightning in a bottle but any production they can provide will be worth it considering they only paid a roster spot and cap space to acquire them. This season the Toronto Maple Leafs have added four players (one player twice) through waivers.
After being picked up by the Leafs, Seth Griffith played three games with the team before being waived and eventually claimed by the Florida Panthers. After 21 games with the Panthers he was reclaimed by the Leafs and now plays with the Toronto Marlies. In 11 games with the Marlies, Griffith has 15 points, registering three goals and 12 assists.
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Ben Smith was placed on waivers by the Colorado Avalanche, claimed by the Leafs and now plays on the fourth line where he is used primarily in defensive situations. He averages 77.1 percent of his zone starts in the defensive zone, and is 52.1 percent on face-offs.
Curtis McElhinney has secured the backup goalie job after being picked up from the Columbus Blue Jackets. In three starts (four total games) with the Leafs, McElhinney has a 2-2 record with a 2.11 goals against and a .935 save percentage, which is much better than what they got from Jhonas Enroth. He also had a 2-1-2 record, 2.39 GAA and a .924 sv% with the Blue Jackets this season. Right now he might be the most important waiver wire pickup for the Leafs seeing how valuable he could be down the stretch when the team needs to give Frederik Andersen a break.
The most recent waiver claim was Alexey Marchenko, who the Detroit Red Wings let go because of a crowded blue line. He has not suited up yet with the Leafs, but the 25-year old was playing a career high 17:59 with the Red Wings. He is a right-handed shot, which is a hot commodity in the NHL, and has international experience with Russia at the World Championship and World Cup of Hockey. With the way the Leafs defence has been playing recently it would not be surprising to see Marchenko play soon, but there is no telling when that will be.
Toronto Maple Leafs
How have these waiver acquisitions worked out for the Leafs this season?
Out of the four waiver wire pickups that the Leafs have made this season only two have been able to lock down a role with the team. In fairness to Marchenko, it has been tough to crack the Leafs’ blue line — just ask Frankie Corrado. Griffith has filled in nicely playing on the Marlies top line with Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic out with injuries.
Other NHL teams have tried their luck with the waiver wire but most of the players end up sitting on the bench waiting for an opportunity. Two notable waiver pickups this season that have exceeded expectations have been P.A. Parenteau with the New Jersey Devils and Alexander Burmistrov with the Arizona Coyotes. Parenteau is on pace for close to 40 points this season, which is not too bad for a free pickup, while Burmistrov has seven points in 11 games for Arizona.
To say the Leafs have hit a home run with waivers might be a stretch, but they have been able to fill holes without giving up picks or prospects. That is what has allowed the Leafs to move forward in this rebuild because they have not had to pay a high price to make improvements and fans should hope that this trend can continue.