Maple Leafs send prospects to minors as part of final major round of cuts

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello believes the children are the future. They’re just not a part of the team’s present.

The Leafs sent prospects William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies as part of the final major round of cuts before the start of the regular season. It’s in line with the organizational mind-set to let young players grow and develop before reaching the NHL.

“There’s an extreme bright future for them, but this is the right decision right now to make sure that we see exactly what we have here, that is of the veterans and what they bring,” Lamoriello said on a conference call Sunday afternoon. “At this time, the right thing is for them to go and be the best possible players they can be.”

Toronto made several moves to get down to a 24-man roster, one over the limit of 23 that must be set by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Lamoriello declined to reveal whether the extra cut would give the team 13 forwards and eight defencemen or 14 forwards and seven defencemen.

None of the cuts were surprising. Joining Nylander and Kapanen in going to the Marlies are forwards Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov and Rich Clune, defencemen Stuart Percy, Viktor Loov and Rinat Valiev and goaltenders Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau.

The Leafs put defencemen T.J. Brennan and Andrew Campbell and forwards Sam Carrick, Matt Frattin and Byron Froese on waivers Sunday to try to get them to the minors. Lamoriello said he talked to each of those players before putting them on waivers and said they were all excited to play in the NHL and try to get back.

Toronto also designated defenceman Petter Granberg as injured non-roster.

By design, there weren’t many jobs up for grabs. The Leafs signed a handful of veteran players to one-year contracts to fill the roster, and Lamoriello said management wants to see what the team looks like under coach Mike Babcock.

“I think we’ll find out exactly where everybody’s at very quickly this week,” Lamoriello said. “But we’re very pleased with the last couple of games as far as the effort that was put into a lot of areas and also the players who started to play well.”

Nylander and Hyman in particular played well in the pre-season. But Lamoriello cautioned that young players should be patient.

“There’s no timetable for when they would be here, when they wouldn’t be here,” he said. “There’s a lot of decisions that will be made as the season goes on and they could be here before you know it, or it could be some time.”

One young player who survived this round of cuts is defenceman Scott Harrington, who was, along with Kapanen, part of the July 1 trade that sent Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Harrington and Martin Marincin, acquired from the Edmonton Oilers, were among those who impressed the front office and coaching staff.

“They’ve gotten better and better during camp, in my opinion,” Lamoriello said. “They’ve deserved the opportunity that they’re getting. We just have to see where the final decision is.”

The Leafs open the regular season and the Babcock era Wednesday night at home against the Montreal Canadiens.


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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press