Yesterday Alexey Marchenko was placed on unconditional waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of a mutual contract termination, with many suspecting he’d return to the KHL for the upcoming season. That has been confirmed by his agent Dan Milstein, who also reports that Marchenko would like to return to the NHL at some point in the future. Milstein didn’t confirm which team Marchenko would play for, though it’s widely believed that CSKA Moscow will be his destination. Igor Eronko of Sport-Express reports that it will be a three-year deal. The Maple Leafs will gain a contract slot and $1.45MM in cap space for this season, the same amount Marchenko was due in the final year of his contract.
Both the cap space and contract slot are huge assets for the Maple Leafs, who remain over the $75MM salary cap and now have 48/50 players under contract. That’s not including Connor Brown, who is a restricted free agent but expected to sign before the start of training camp. Brown and Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello have expressed no concern over negotiations, and likely wer waiting for transactions like this in order to free up some room.
The Maple Leafs could also now be players in NCAA free agency tomorrow, when Will Butcher and Alex Kerfoot will headline a group of players that also includes former Toronto draft pick Dominic Toninato. Toninato has said that there wasn’t room for him in Toronto in the past, which could have just changed with the termination of Marchenko. Still, Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News listed the Maple Leafs as a possible destination for Butcher, though another left-handed defenseman seems unlikely for a team already loaded with them.
A final possibility is now free agency for the Maple Leafs, as they previously couldn’t have added another player without risking their not being room for Brown to sign. With several useful names still out there, the upstart Toronto team could add some more veteran presence to one of the youngest squads in the league.