TORONTO– Dallas Eakins trimmed the Toronto Marlies’ roster down to 27 players last week and anyone whose rights are held by the Leafs was to report to the ECHL.
In all, Eakins cut three forwards. Sam Carrick was first to find a new club as he was assigned to the Idaho Steelheads on Monday, however Tyler Brenner and Andrew Crescenzi remain in Toronto because the organization cannot find a spot for them to play.
In the past, Toronto had its own ECHL affiliate and all of its prospects would report to the same team with no hesitation. But, for the first time in 11 years Toronto doesn’t have an agreement with any club and is searching for the best spot available to send its players.
“We do have a working agreement with the Fort Wayne Komets , nothing official just a working agreement,” said Leafs VP of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin. “Due to the timing with the start of the year, they, (and everyone else in the league), were full at the forward position. We then sought the best possible places for each of the three players that had been re-assigned. Sam is in Boise, and Tyler and Andrew will be placed shortly. We will continue to handle each assignment on a case by case basis, and look for the best possible situations.”
While not having your own ECHL affiliate isn’t an ideal situation, it normally isn’t this difficult to find a spot for NHL prospects. Because of the NHL lockout, many ECHL club’s are affected by the trickle-down effect and are already full at most positions.
“The guys that we’ve tried to re-assign, it’s hard to get them into the east coast league because the push has gone all the way down to there,” said Eakins. “There are guys that I would hope would challenge for spots on the Leafs and play there, but they’re in my locker room right now and that means the younger guys have to find somewhere to play.”
Toronto’s “working agreement” with Fort Wayne doesn’t guarantee any spots for Leafs’ prospects so unless an arrangement is reached with an individual club, Toronto may have to send Crescenzi and Brenner to whatever team is willing to take on another body.
Another option for Crescenzi, and Carrick, would be to loan them to their junior clubs to play an over-age season, which would minimize bodies and continue their development, but right now the organization doesn’t want to go that route.
“No plans at this point to send players back to junior,” stated Poulin.
This early in the season Eakins isn’t overly concerned about the amount of prospects that need a place to play, but understands that something needs to be set up for them to maximize their development. He already has Brad Ross, Jamie Devane, Spencer Abbott and Kenny Ryan sitting out as healthy scratches with the Marlies and if the NHL doesn’t return soon they too could be looking for playing time in the ECHL.
Alaska, Bakersfield and Las Vegas are the only ECHL clubs that have no affiliation to any NHL club, but travel time would be a major reason as to why Toronto wouldn’t want to commit an agreement to those cities. Plus, many NHL clubs double up with ECHL teams so Toronto could still officially partner with any of the other 20 teams in the league.
New Jersey, Colorado, Buffalo and the New York Islanders join Toronto as the only NHL clubs not to have an official ECHL partnership at current time.
Toronto was previously affiliated with the Reading Royals up until their agreement expired this summer.