NHL NEWS: Leafs place Tim Connolly on waivers; buyout expected.

As per TSN, the Toronto Maple Leafs have placed centre Tim Connolly on waivers, and a buyout of his contract is expected to follow.  The Leafs signed Connolly as a UFA last year with the somewhat misguided expectation that he would be their number 1 centre between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.  The problem is, while no-one doubts that Connolly is a skilled and talented hockey player, he is frequently injured and has always left people wanting more out on the ice.  He has 431 points in 697 NHL games with the NY Islanders, the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto, so he is far from being a useless player; in fact he’d make a capable second line player on many teams, but he is definitely more a complimentary player than a primary building block of a team.

This move, coupled with the trade of Matthew Lombardi earlier for a draft pick, suggests that the Maple Leafs (under the new management of Dave Nonis following the firing of Brian Burke) are either cleaning house and rebuilding from the ground up, or – and I believe this to be a more likely suggestion – clearing way for a trade that will involve taking on a significant cap hit.  Connolly had a $4.75m cap hit, and Lombardi’s was around $3.5m.  I don’t like to speculate, but something is going on in Toronto.

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