On Saturday the Toronto Maple Leafs and restricted free agent forward William Nylander finally reached an agreement on a new contract after months and months of hard fought negotiations. The announcement put to rest countless rumors that had surrounded those same negotiations including trade rumors and even rumors of a potential season in the Kontinental Hockey League, much to the delight of Leaf fans who were happy to see him signed and to fans around the National Hockey League who were simply happy that they no longer have to hear about it. That being said though the Nylander signing is not great for everyone.
The harsh reality of the situation is that Nylander's return will now require someone that is currently on the Maple Leafs main roster to give up their roster spot in order to clear room for Nylander on that very same roster. That means that someone is almost assuredly headed either to the waiver wire, where they could be claimed by a rival organization, or directly down to the American Hockey League. Now while that is the normal process for many players in the NHL, to lose your spot after spending several weeks on a highly successful NHL squad has to be a heart breaker for whichever player it is that finally does lose his spot. The question now becomes who will that player be? There are currently 3 players on the Maple Leafs roster who stand out as obvious candidates to sit, albeit for different reasons, but there's no real way of knowing which way Leafs' head coach Mike Babcock or Leafs' general manager Kyle Dubas will choose to go on this one.
The first and most obvious choice would appear to be 26 year old defenseman Justin Holl. Holl has been on the main roster since the start of the season but has appeared in just a single game during the entire 2018 - 2019 NHL regular season, spending his time instead up in the press box as a healthy scratch. The fact that he has seen so little use really does make him appear to be the top candidate but there are other options out there as well.
Up next is another 26 year old and another defenseman in Matt Marincin. Like Holl Marincin has been used very sparingly although he has appeared in just 6 games this season compared to Holl's 1. The only reason I rate Holl as a more likely candidate to go back down is the fact that Marincin has seen more use in spite of the fact that many expected him to be cut during training camp.
Those 2 are both defensemen however and Nylander himself is a forward so if for some reason Mike Babcock wanted to maintain his roster depth on the blue line he could instead look to replace a forward on his roster. The most obvious choice among the forwards would appear to be 23 year old centerman Frederik Gauthier. Gauthier has appeared in 22 games this season for the Leafs and has proven himself to be a reliable player up the middle of the ice so I don't see this one happening, but if there really is a desire to move a forward down he could be that guy.
Who do you think the Leafs will cut from the main roster in order to make room for Nylander?