Toronto Maple Leafs: Waiver impact on the line-up

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Kasperi Kapanen
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Kasperi Kapanen /

Similar to last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs may have to keep waiver eligibility in mind when deciding on the opening roster.

We’re all currently in the dog days of the NHL offseason. The only thing left to do until October is wait for possible signings, trades, or predict roster combinations. Toronto Maple Leafs fans spend a lot of time making predictions, with the possibility of up to seven rookies making the team out of camp. One of the troubles of slotting in players, is taking waivers into account.

For those who may not be familiar, if a team wants to send a non-ELC (entry-level-contract) player to the minors, they need to clear waivers. All the other 30 teams have a chance to pick up that player and add them to their roster. Otherwise, the player is sent to their AHL affiliate team.

No player in the Leafs top nine will have to worry about waivers. As mentioned earlier, ELC players don’t need to clear waivers to be sent down.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

However, there’s absolutely no way the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner or William Nylander ever get sent down. The “issue” occurs at fourth line right-wing.

It looks like that spot will be open for one of Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo, Nikita Soshnikov or Eric Fehr. Soshnikov had a bad year, playing on the fourth line and missing games due to injury. His penalty killing may have kept him in the line-up longer than he should’ve been.

Leivo was Corrado 2.0 for the majority of the year, but was able to produce when in games. Fehr was acquired at the deadline from Pittsburgh and only played one game, before being shut down for the season with a hand injury.

The obvious choice for that position would be Kapanen. He was one of the players Leafs’ fans wanted to see in the line-up. He didn’t look out of place at all in the NHL and was a force in the final games of the season and some playoff appearances.

Unfortunately, Kapanen, as well as Soshnikov, are on ELCs and can be sent down without waivers. Keep in mind a team can only have 23 players on their roster. Unless a move is made, it could be Leivo or Fehr that draws in ahead of Kapanen.

Another possibility is the Leafs just put those players that need to clear waivers on there anyway. This was seen at the beginning of last season, when Brooks Laich was put up. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Ben Smith will be on waivers the first chance the Leafs get, but perhaps Fehr joins him.

Even if the Leafs are forced to send Kapanen down, Leivo would be the next best option. However, considering what Kapanen did this season and the fact he kills penalties, it would be more likely that Leafs management finds a way to keep him with the team.

Next: Leafs' rookie development camp begins

What are your predictions for the opening roster? Do the Leafs find a way to keep Kapanen in the NHL? Would you keep him in the AHL until a deal could be made? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!