Welcome to the party, Nikita Gusev.
Best of luck trying to find a seat.
The former SKA Saint Petersburg star signed a PTO with the Maple Leafs just before the weekend, five days before the opening of training camp. He joins fellow intriguing newcomer Joshua Ho-Sang in that situation, trying to win a deal in the confines of a competitive 20-day battle with a ton of forwards who have one-way deals.
The Leafs are obviously not going to carry 15 forwards this season — nor can they. The 23-man roster above is $1.4 million over the salary cap.
Kurtis Gabriel and Adam Brooks feel like the most likely cuts to start, meaning they’ll have to clear waivers before the regular season opens Oct. 13. That would sneak the Leafs just $80,217 under the cap, getting them compliant with 13 forwards, six defencemen and two goaltenders.
Even if we assume Gusev and Ho-Sang aren’t successful in pushing for NHL jobs and Nick Robertson’s terrific play in the prospect events doesn’t translate into him landing a role with the Leafs out of camp, the roster is jammed up. (And that’s before we get to other hopefuls like Kirill Semyonov, Michael Amadio and Joey Anderson.)
In most circumstances, an NHL team is going to want to carry, at minimum, seven defencemen when going on the road. Assuming they’re fully healthy, the Leafs cannot currently do so without waiving one of the other 13 forwards above.