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Toronto Maple Leaf Frazer McLaren (38) tugs on New York Islander Matt Martin's (17) jersey before ref stepped in to keep them from fighting during NHL game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders at the Air Canada Centre on Nov 19 2013. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Toronto Maple Leaf Frazer McLaren (38) tugs on New York Islander Matt Martin's (17) jersey before ref stepped in to keep them from fighting during NHL game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders at the Air Canada Centre on Nov 19 2013. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Maple Leafs place enforcer Frazer McLaren on waivers Add to ...

Team truculence just took a hit.

The Toronto Maple Leafs placed Frazer McLaren, one of their two enforcers, on waivers on Monday afternoon, paving the way for him to be sent to the minors.

The move will also free up cap space for centre Dave Bolland to finally come off long-term injured reserve. Based on the current roster, the Leafs will have nearly $700,000 in cap space with McLaren gone and Bolland in the lineup.

That frees up a bit of breathing room for GM Dave Nonis to pursue options before Wednesday’s trade deadline.

McLaren was part of a “Bash Brothers” strategy the Leafs used a year ago whereby coach Randy Carlyle dressed two fighters on his fourth line and his team led the league in majors by a large margin.

That hasn’t worked out this season, and McLaren has played sparingly after signing a two year contract in the off-season, dressing in only 26 of 62 games and averaging four minutes of ice time a game.

He has no points and just three shots in goal in 106 minutes of ice time overall. And Troy Bodie, who has been a much more well rounded enforcer type (with seven points and 27 shots on goal in a similar number of games), has played well enough to push him out of the lineup. 

It’s not out of the question McLaren gets claimed by another team looking for some toughness, just as the Leafs claimed him a year ago, but with so many teams tight against the cap and the fact he has another year on his contract (at $700,000), it’s a better bet he ends up with the Toronto Marlies.

Overall, this is a positive move for a team that needs to start getting more out of its depth lines. Toronto has dressed likely the weakest fourth unit in the NHL this season and played them less than all but one other team, something that has only contributed to their defensive issues.

With Bolland in the lineup, it’s possible the Leafs have skilled players on even their third and fourth lines, depending on how often Colton Orr enters the lineup. Toronto has some options in the minors in Carter Ashton and Peter Holland that could provide some offence in 10 minutes a game, but Carlyle has thus far been reluctant to move away from strictly using checkers in those roles.

Time will tell if moving out McLaren is a sign of change on that front.

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