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Mirtle: More moves coming for cap-strapped Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mark Fraser warms up as the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare to meet the Boston Bruins in quarter-final NHL playoff action at the Air Canada Centre on May 6 2013.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

One body is gone and a $1.275-million salary with it.

Now the Toronto Maple Leafs have to shed up to four more in order to slide under the salary cap once everyone gets healthy.

The Leafs have basically been exceeding the cap ever since Dave Bolland went down with an ankle injury, as he was placed on long-term injured reserve almost immediately and replaced on the roster by a host of call-ups and fill-ins.

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Toronto then dealt defenceman Mark Fraser to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday morning because they would have lost him to waivers for nothing in order to make room for Bolland, whose $3.375-million cap hit is about to rejoin the mix.

With everyone healthy, the Leafs now have 25 players on the roster and are $1.73-million over the cap, meaning at least three of the following six forwards will likely be waived or demoted in the coming days: Peter Holland, Carter Ashton, Trevor Smith, Frazer McLaren, Troy Bodie and Colton Orr.

If they do so before the Olympic break, which begins a week from Sunday, it will buy Toronto a little bit of extra cap space, as salaries continue to be paid during the two-and-a-half week stoppage.

"We're going to have to make some moves leading up to the Olympic break," Leafs assistant GM Claude Loiselle said on Friday, soon after the Fraser trade was announced. "It's going to be busy [around the league]. I noticed there's a few guys on waivers today. Teams are going to try to get down to the lowest amount possible on their cap to create a little cushion through the Olympic break."

The three best choices to send down would be Orr, McLaren and Ashton, but that won't be the way the Leafs go given their affinity for the two enforcers on the roster and having a little-used fourth line. That will likely mean someone like Holland or Smith is a casualty along with Ashton and Bodie, who have both been useful in limited roles during Toronto's recent hot streak.

If the three players going down are Holland, Ashton and Bodie, that leaves the Leafs with roughly $580,000 cap space and a 22-man roster, opening a bit of room to do something at the March 5 trade deadline.

As for the two players the Leafs acquired on Friday from the Oilers – Teemu Hartikainen and Cam Abney – they won't provide any immediate help. Another enforcer type, Abney is going directly to Orlando of the ECHL, while Hartikainen will remain in Russia in the KHL until next season.

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Loiselle said the staff projected the 23-year-old Finn as a potential third-liner, adding that he has an out clause in his KHL deal and can be signed to an NHL one for 2014-15. If he fails to make the Leafs, he could then be loaned back to the KHL.

"He wants to play in the NHL," Loiselle said. "He's probably a third-liner player that competes and is hard on the puck and that our scouts think highly of."

Given Fraser had been a healthy scratch for almost half the season and had a sizable contract for an eighth defenceman, that kind of gamble – that Hartikainen might turn into something – is obviously well worth it in a deal like this.

Projected Leafs roster, once healthy:

JVR – Bozak – Kessel

Lupul – Kadri – Kulemin

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Raymond – Bolland – Clarkson

McClement – Smith – Orr

ex: McLaren

Gunnarsson – Phaneuf

Gleason – Rielly

Gardiner – Franson

ex: Ranger

Bernier

Reimer

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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