Toronto Maple Leafs: What now for Nikita Soshnikov?

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13: Nikita Soshnikov
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13: Nikita Soshnikov /

Toronto Maple Leafs have an important decision to make regarding Nikita Soshnikov, which will have major ramifications for other players on the roster.

The Toronto Marlies had a successful weekend, as a 5-2 victory over the Binghamton Devils extended their winning run to seven games and their points streak to 16 contests. However, the end of Sunday’s game also meant the Toronto Maple Leafs now have an extremely important decision to make.

That’s because the contest represented the end of Nikita Soshnikov‘s conditioning stint in the AHL. His stint can’t be extended again, meaning the Leafs now have to work out what to do with him.

As per Scott Wheeler of The Athletic, the 24-year-old had an excellent stint with the Marlies. And on Sunday, coach Mike Babcock and scouts were in the building to observe his performance.

While this only helps Soshnikov’s case to rejoin the Leafs’ roster, the reality is that’s what’s going to happen anyway. Not putting him back in would mean he’d have to go through waivers. (As an additional note, it’s worth pointing out he has a clause in his contract which allows him to return to the KHL, if he is not on an NHL roster.)

Babcock has made his thoughts quite clear about the winger. As reported by Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston before Christmas, the Leafs’ coach said: “The reality is we want him to be a Leaf for a long time to come,”

With this in mind, who’s going to have to make room on the Leafs’ roster? Previously, it would have likely been a case of sending Kasperi Kapanen to the AHL, as he doesn’t require waivers.

However, Kapanen has played well enough recently to throw a spanner in the works. Prior to the recent game against Anaheim, as per Johnston, Babcock said: “Kapanen is an elite penalty killer, a real good skater and he’s got a real good tempo.”

One of the players who has moved down the pecking order due to Kapanen’s play, is Josh Leivo. However, he has stated he doesn’t want to spend any more time in the AHL and recently requested the Leafs either play him or trade him.

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There is also Matt Martin to consider, with recent speculation indicating he could be moved. (The Leafs would reportedly even keep money to help him find a new home.) Along with Leivo, Martin has been a healthy scratch recently and both would be subject to the waiver wire.

In one respect, it’s a good problem to have, as it alludes to the depth within the organization. (The Leafs are at the maximum 50 contracts allowed.) In addition, it shows the remarkable health of the roster.

However, it also represents a headache for the Toronto Maple Leafs in terms of having to lose a talented player. Leivo is a good winger with decent upside, while Martin is an elite body checker and physical presence.

It will be extremely interesting to see what the Toronto Maple Leafs do. From the fans’ perspective, you imagine they’re happy to have issues such as this, after going through a period of just one playoff appearance in 11 seasons prior to the 2016/17 campaign.

Next: JVR no longer available to be traded?

What are you doing with Soshnikov if you’re the Leafs? Are you putting him back on the roster? If so, who are you removing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.