The Toronto Maple Leafs have a problem that every NHL team wishes it had.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have TOO MANY NHL DEFENENSEMEN. After years of having their blueline be more or less a laughing stock (Ron Hainsey on the top pair? Nikita Zaitsev in the lineup? Cody Ceci on the top pairing? Roman Polak dressing at all?) General Manager Kyle Dubas has put together arguably the best group in the league.
*At least on paper – actual performances may vary. *
Regardless of what happens, at the very least, the Leafs are entering training camp with too many players and too few spots. This may leave potential future-of-the-franchise Rasmus Sandin sitting on the outside looking in.
Back in the playoffs I said the Leafs should 100% use him, and they didn’t. As we enter the season, I think they should use him, but now that there are more options, the best I can say is that they have to give him a fair chance, and can’t just send him to the Marlies because his contract makes it convenient to do so (he doesn’t have to clear waivers).
Rasmus Sandin and the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs top four is pretty much set to start the season. TJ Brodie, Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin are all elite, top pairing blue-liners. Rielly (assuming last year was an injury related anomaly) is among the best of the best in the NHL.
Justin Holl earned his top four job last year, and demoting him would be like demoting a forward coming off a 30 goal season. At the very least he gets a chance to prove that he’s for real.
That leaves Sandin, along with Zach Bogosian, Travis Dermott, Mikko Lehtonen, and to a lesser extent Timothy Liljegren fighting for ice time.
I highly suspect that Lehtonen is going to be a star player, and that once he comes into the lineup, he won’t be coming out. I can easily see an instance where Bogosian only plays when Keefe dresses seven D, and that Dermott is traded.
But all of that would require Sandin to blow the doors off at Leafs training camp. Will he be able to do so in such a short time, when doing so will lead to all sorts of complications (barely playing Bogosian, trading Dermott)? I doubt it. I think the inclination will be to send him back to the AHL and keep him playing 25 minutes per night.
The problem is that he’s already either the best defensemen in the AHL or close enough to it that arguing about it is ridiculous. There simply is no need for him to be playing in the AHL and 30 other teams would already have him penciled into their opening night roster.
Rasmus Sandin should be on the Toronto Maple Leafs opening night roster. It just doesn’t make sense to leave a potential top pairing high ceiling player such as this off the team.