It’s been a long wait for any news of the Toronto Maple Leafs. With a glut of wingers and defensemen, it was inevitable that something would happen to address the surplus of players. On Monday, the Leafs put defenseman Alexey Marchenko on waivers. It was rumored that both parties had agreed to terminate his contract, which would relieve the Leafs of $1.45 million to be paid in his final year.
This was confirmed the next day by Marchenko’s agent Dan Milstein.
Alexey Marchenko of Toronto Maple Leafs has decided to continue his career at home in Russia.He intends to comeback to the NHL in the future
— Dan Milstein-Hockey (@HockeyAgent1) August 15, 2017
So what does the future hold for Marchenko and how will this impact the Leafs?
Marchenko to the KHL
It’s been reported that Marchenko has signed a three-year deal with his former KHL team, CSKA Moscow.
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) August 15, 2017
This also explains why he was put on waivers now as opposed to closer to the start of the season as the KHL season is set to begin on Monday, Aug. 21. Marchenko played with CSKA for four seasons and only became a regular in the lineup in his last season.
In 2013, Marchenko left the KHL and signed an entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings. He spent most of the first two years in the AHL before finally playing 66 games with the Red Wings in 2015-16.
By going back to the KHL it will also allow Marchenko to participate in the upcoming Olympics.
Leafs’ Roster Spot up for Grabs
Back in February, the Leafs claimed Marchenko off waivers from Detroit. It took him a while to get into the Leafs’ lineup and when he did it was only for a short time. He played 11 games for the Leafs and spent most of his time in the press box. Since he was the team’s seventh defenseman, there’s no loss in waiving him. What this does is give them some cap space and opportunity.
With Marchenko’s contract coming off the books, the Leafs are closer to the salary cap ceiling though they are still over it. With the cap set to be $75 million, the Leafs are now only $2.4 million over it. Luckily, this isn’t that big of an issue as they can still make use of Joffrey Lupul and Nathan Horton’s injury reserve cap relief.
Losing Marchenko also brings the organization’s contracts down to 48 from 50 and opens up an active NHL roster spot on defense, giving the Leafs more leeway to sign Connor Brown.
Too Many Defensemen
With a number of players that the Leafs have crammed into the Toronto Marlies, it made sense that someone would be let go.
Now, the extra spot on defense gives defensemen Calle Rosén, Andreas Borgman and Travis Dermott a chance to prove themselves during training camp. Both Rosén and Borgman were signed out of Sweden and are expected to compete for spots considering they were key players on their respective teams in the SHL.
Dermott also has a good chance of making the NHL this season after taking a big step forward with the Marlies last year. Then there is also the possibility that the Leafs’ 2017 first round pick, Timothy Liljegren, impresses enough to stay with the big club, although it’s more likely that he goes back to the SHL or even down to the AHL.
Regardless, the Leafs have far too many players to worry about losing Marchenko. His $1.45 million contract was far too much to pay for a player that wouldn’t see regular ice-time, especially when a cheaper and younger player could do just as well.