My first thought when discussing adding players on PTO’s is this: if they do well, can the Leafs even keep them? They’re so close to the cap ceiling and have few to no players that are waiver exempt.
It’s a tough task, but it’s possible for sure.
First off, any player that earns a standard contract from a PTO would have to play exceptionally well. While it may be possible that the Leafs are willing to waive and possible lose Connor Timmins in order to bust open enough capspace to add elsewhere, he has shown the potential to produce points and, at the very least, could be worth a mid to late pick in a trade, so waiving him might not be wise. In other words, any new addition would have to be far better than the Leafs’ least valuable player and in my opinion, that’s Timmins at the moment. If you don’t agree that’s fine, just replace Timmins with whoever you believe is their least valuable player that’s projected to make the roster out of camp and the point remains the same.
Secondly, Matthew Knies is penciled into the lineup on opening night, but that doesn’t necessarily have to happen. While Knies definitely won’t be their worst player out of the gate, he’s the only guy I have on my cap compliant lineup that is waiver exempt. This, by the way, is that lineup:
This roster has $300K in capspace and it’s one I’ve shared before. I know there are some that would do it differently, especially because starting the year by running 11/7 isn’t a great option, but this is the roster that has the Leafs as being cap compliant while also not exposing anybody to waivers. I’m jumping to the conclusion that this is their plan of attack and sticking with that conclusion until I’m proven otherwise.
But I digress.
Matthew Knies is waiver exempt and they could use that to their advantage. We should remember that this is about winning the Stanley Cup and there are no awards handed out for being the best team in November. If Knies has to bounce back and forth between the Leafs and Marlies for a regular season, so that management can add a valuable piece to the lineup that can help them in the spring, then so be it. His development won’t be stopped cold by playing in the AHL anyway, so whats the harm?
Lastly, injuries happen, so signing a player or two to a PTO could simply be a way to hedge your bets before opening night. If a player such as Bertuzzi, who finds it difficult to play an entire NHL season, is hurt in training camp and that injury allows for him to be placed on LTIR, it would open up far more than enough space to add a couple of players to the roster. The Leafs are currently sitting at 46/50 contracts as well, so there’s room to add. Worst case scenario? At some point during the season everybody is healthy and tough decisions have to be made. It’s a business and has to be treated as such.
Now at 24 years old, the former 2nd overall pick from the 2017 NHL draft never really established himself as a true NHLer. To make matters worse he didn’t play a single game last season, while only suiting up for 25 contests the year previous. It does appear that he could be ready to go come training camp, but no team has taken a flyer on the 6’2″ 200lb centre yet. The assumption is that a PTO is in his future. There’s still some potential there and the Leafs are desperately lacking centre depth in the system, which leaves no reason to not consider Patrick for a tryout position.
I’ll throw Comtois’ name out there as a potential fit, but at this point we’re all just waiting for the names of the players on the 2018 WJC team that sexually assaulted a woman to be released and Comtois was on that roster. While Maxime isn’t a top end player, he isn’t bad enough to justify not having a contract at this point, which has me wondering if NHL execs know that his name will be involved. This is simple conjecture from me, as I have zero knowledge of what happened. If he wasn’t involved then he’d be a good fit in Toronto in my opinion. If he was, then he’d fit better in a prison uniform than any NHL uniform.
Veteran leadership never hurts, especially when your team is lead by a group of manchildren. Bailey had some of his best years playing with John Tavares, which makes me wonder if he’d like to try to rekindle that chemistry.
Motte is a spark plug on the ice. He plays an in-your-face style of game and can kill penalties, while also chipping in a little offense. He’s exactly the type of player you need in your bottom 6 come playff time and, in my opinion, would be a solid addition to any line that already has Sam Lafferty on it.
The big bodied, physical penalty killer would add another physical element to the bottom 6, which is still desperately needed.
Honourable mentions: Whether it’s Paul Stastny for centre depth, Danton Heinen for scoring depth, Auston Watson for added grit, or a player like Jesse Puljujarvi to see if there’s any untapped potential, there are options still available on the market. The question is if the Leafs are able to add any of them or not.