Morgan Rielly can’t be sure until 5 p.m. Monday when NHL teams have to submit their final rosters, but it looks like the 19-year-old defenceman will start the season as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
With the decision to put veteran defenceman John-Michael Liles, 33, on waivers Sunday along with five other players, it appears the Leafs decided to keep Rielly at least for the nine NHL games allowed a teenaged player before he has to stay for good or go back to junior hockey. The Leafs also could put forward Frazer McLaren (broken pinky) on the long-term injury list on Monday, which would allow them to carry 12 active forwards along with seven defencemen.
It appears they will go with a 22-man roster, one under the NHL limit, which will get them just under the NHL’s $64.3-million salary cap (all currency U.S.), according to capgeek.com. If McLaren goes on the long-term injured list, the Leafs will be allowed to exceed the cap, which should allow for the addition of a 12th active forward.
Rielly will be one of two rookies on the team when the Leafs open the 2013-14 season Tuesday in Montreal against the Canadiens. Also making the cut was winger Carter Ashton, who will probably play beside centre Dave Bolland on the third line. It appears the open spot on the fourth line will go to either Troy Brodie or Trevor Smith once they clear NHL waivers Monday. Both have cap-friendly salaries of $600,000 or less.
All of the above players could be in for a change, however. With prize free-agent acquisition David Clarkson suspended for the first 10 games, Leafs general manager David Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle will have some roster decisions to make when he makes his Leafs debut Oct. 25.
Rookie centre Joe Colborne lost his fight for a job in Toronto when he was traded to his hometown Calgary Flames on Saturday night for a conditional fourth-round pick. A first-round draft pick by the Boston Bruins in 2008, the six-foot-five, 215-pound Colborne played his way from prospect to suspect with his inconsistent play in a few stints with the Leafs plus this training camp.
Since Colborne is a skill player who does not like a physical game, he had to win a job among the top-six forwards if he was to stick with the Leafs. Carlyle likes his bottom six forwards to play a hard-hitting game, something that never appeared to interest Colborne.
With Liles on waivers and Colborne shipped out, almost all of the assets received in the Tomas Kaberle trade are gone. Former Leafs GM Brian Burke received Colborne, a first-round pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft and a second-round pick in 2012 for Kaberle. Burke traded the second-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche. The first-round pick was used to move higher in the draft to get forward Tyler Biggs, who is with the Leafs’ Toronto Marlies farm team.
Also on waivers with Liles, Bodie and Smith are goaltender Drew MacIntyre and defencemen Korbinian Holzer and T.J. Brennan. All of them will be sent to the Marlies if no other NHL team claims them.