Mike Komisarek is on the verge of joining the Toronto Marlies.
The Toronto Maple Leafs put the veteran defenceman on waivers on Wednesday afternoon after Komisarek waived his no movement clause, making him available to any NHL team for the next 24 hours.
Because he is unlikely to be claimed, however, the next step will be to assign him to the AHL.
The 31-year-old is in the fourth year of a five-year deal that pays him an average of $4.5-million but has been a healthy scratch or injured for long portions of his tenure with the Leafs and has played just four games this season.
Under the league’s new CBA, Toronto will still have to keep $3.6-million of Komisarek’s cap hit on the books for the remainder of this season.
The Leafs will almost certainly buy Komisarek out using one of their two compliance buyouts this summer, which would then remove his cap hit and allow him to sign elsewhere.
More than anything, going to the Marlies now is a way for Komisarek to prove he can still play. He has appeared in only 49 of the Leafs last 111 games and just 158 of 275 since signing that enormous contract in free agency in 2009.
In a depth role and on a much smaller salary, it’s possible Komisarek can help another team but sitting out almost full season as a healthy wasn’t going to do him any favours.
The risk here for the Leafs is if Komisarek gets hurt while playing in the AHL. Both the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens were unwilling to send Wade Redden and Scott Gomez – two players in similar predicaments – to the minors during training camp, which led to the league and NHLPA negotiating a workaround where they could be bought out early.
Toronto didn’t go that route with Komisarek, however, and an injury with the Marlies could potentially keep him out of action through the summer buyout window and leave him on the Leafs roster into the final year of his contract.
That's a risk Leafs GM Dave Nonis said the organization is willing to take.
"He could get hurt in practice," Nonis explained. "He needs to play."
The reality is that the Leafs could really use the extra roster spot Komisarek was occupying. After recalling Jake Gardiner from the minors, Toronto was once again back at the 23-man limit and carrying eight defencemen.
Minus Komisarek, the Leafs can add another forward from the minors or via trade and carry two extras, giving coach Randy Carlyle more flexibility with his lineup.