The Toronto Maple Leafs made some quick adjustments after losing a player to the waiver wire. Jimmy Vesey has been claimed by the Vancouver Canucks. Within minutes of removing Vesey from the books, the Maple Leafs took off the taxi squad jersey from Alex Galchenyuk at practice and had him skating on the second line.
Vesey had dressed for all 30 of Toronto’s games, recording five goals and two assists. He started the season on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander, but had been moved to the third line shortly after and played on the fourth line last week. After a goal in his first game with the Maple Leafs, Vesey had been nearly invisible on the ice. However, the Leafs didn’t seem to mind his lack of production as he was positionally sound.
According to the Leafs general manager, Vesey was put on waivers for cap issues and to increase the competition for the roster spot. Kyle Dubas told reporters just one day ago, “at the beginning of the year, we had put a bunch of the guys who have now comprised our fourth line or third line on waivers or sent them down, and that allowed what I thought at the beginning of the year was a really good competition. Even when guys were producing, whether it was Adam Brooks or (Nic) Petan or Travis Boyd, Joey Anderson, Vesey, (Jason) Spezza, the different players who played in those roles, they were still coming in and out of the lineup. I thought that competition really fueled great performance from those players.”
If it was a move to motivate the underachieving Vesey, it backfired. All the Leafs’ work into Vesey, who was coming off a horrendous season with the Buffalo Sabres where he recorded 20 points in 64 games, can now be utilized by Vancouver.
Next Man Up for Toronto
However, Toronto has no shortage of forwards ready to go, and it seems the newest Maple Leaf is going to get his chance. Galchenyuk, who was acquired a month ago, was practicing with the regular rostered players after removing the taxi squad jersey. He was skating on the second line with Tavares and Nylander. It’s been a wild season for Galchenyuk. He started the season with the Ottawa Senators, before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and then traded to Toronto. The Leafs assigned him to the AHL, his first minor league assignment.
Dubas praised Galchenyuk’s work, despite all of the adversity the 27-year-old had been enduring. “In discussion with Alex and with Pat Brisson, his agent, it was clear that we needed to get into a situation where we could reset Alex and start to build him back up. He was obviously a player that had a great stretch in his early 20s and has now bounced around for a few teams. What we wanted to do is stabilize him, get him working with our development staff and then get him in rolling with games with the Marlies. It was just really fortunate how it all worked out,” said Dubas.
Galchenyuk Gets an Opportunity
The Marlies head coach was tasked to get Galchenyuk back on track, and it seemed to work as he had eight points in six games, Dubas was watching. “I watch all the games, but more importantly, the reports from Greg and the Marlies staff and from our development staff here, he’s been outstanding in terms of his work ethic, commitment, his attitude. Watching the games, he’s obviously played quite well. We just want to continue to have him build up his confidence and improve his form. Certainly, I think that, in time, he’ll get an opportunity,” said Dubas.
For the Maple Leafs, the Vesey project is over, and the Galchenyuk work has just begun. It appears that Galchenyuk offers more upside potential. Both players are 27, but Galchenyuk has three more seasons in the NHL under his belt, and his numbers have been better than Vesey’s most seasons. The question will be if he can fit into Sheldon Keefe’s very structured game plan.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.