On Saturday morning, it was announced that the Toronto Maple Leafs had claimed Alexey Marchenko from the Detroit Red Wings. While that headline isn’t the blockbuster we’ve been waiting for, it does have some impact on a team that is still deciding what to do at the quickly approaching deadline.
The Maple Leafs placed the much discussed Frank Corrado on waivers in a corresponding move, possibly ending the defenseman’s tenure in Toronto. Corrado hasn’t played much this year, getting into just two games with the NHL club and seven on an AHL conditioning stint. Clearly in head coach Mike Babcock’s doghouse since he came to Toronto, the team has been looking for a right-handed upgrade for a long time.
Marchenko has ties to Babcock from his days in Detroit, though not many. The 25-year old got into just 14 games while Babcock was coaching. It is that familiarity though that has some people saying that he’ll jump into the lineup (at least on a part-time basis) instead of Roman Polak. James Mirtle of the Athletic was on TSN 1050 today and related his thoughts on the matter.
He’s going to play him. The fact that he’s going to play another right defenseman means Roman Polak is going to be sitting out games, and they can look to trade him at some point.
Maybe they play Polak until the deadline, and then they move him…and now they’ve got Marchenko that can slide into those minutes.
The idea that Polak would be moved out of Toronto for the second time in two years is a persistent one in Toronto, as he continues to struggle when paired with Matt Hunwick in all situations other than the penalty kill. While he brought back a pair of second-round picks (when combined with Nick Spaling) last season, it would be surprising to see the Leafs receive anything like that this time around. Polak doess bring a physical presence and the experience of a long Stanley Cup run last season with San Jose, still valued attributes around the league.
For the Maple Leafs, it’s not clear whether they would want to add, sell or just stay the course with a team that is unexpectedly vying for a playoff spot this season. The plan has always been to build slow through the draft, but with the Atlantic Division wide open they have a chance at a playoff seed as soon as this year. Keeping Polak for their push might be beneficial in the long run; this team will be extremely inexperienced if they do make it, as even their veterans haven’t seen more than a handful of playoff games.
We’ll see soon enough how Mike Babcock is leaning, as the Maple Leafs don’t have a second to breathe. After tonight in Boston, they have four more games in seven days including rematches against the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, both clubs that destroyed them this week. If Marchenko gets into the lineup for Polak right away, start looking around to see where he might fit around the league. Lou Lamoriello is known for getting his work done a little early, and the Leafs may pull the trigger quicker than you expect.