The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a particularly interesting roster bind today, as they are forced to make an important decision regarding one of their young skilled forwards.
Nikita Soshnikov, after being on injured reserve for close to two months, was sent to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL waivers-free for the purpose of a conditioning stint - one that allows him some free game time to get his legs back before reporting directly back to the Leafs' roster.
There was one catch though - he had to report directly back to the team when the conditioning loan ended, but to do so, the Leafs would need to clear a roster spot as they are currently at the 23-man limit.
They would be forced to demote someone to the AHL in his place, and with Kasperi Kapanen and Travis Dermott playing excellent and important hockey for the big club, Lou Lamoriello is trying to avoid sending them down at all costs.
They apparently circumvented the rules and extended Soshnikov's conditioning stint - something that's typically only granted if the player isn't in good health yet, but from all accounts, he was feeling great, and playing very well. It was clearly a tactic to extend the time they have to find a trade partner for the Russian forward.
And that theory has been confirmed.
Aivis Kalnins is a reliable source for European/Russian news, so we wouldn't take this news with a grain of salt. It lines up with the actions the Leafs have been taking this past week - the question simply becomes, will the Leafs find a trade partner before noon today? It's a few short hours away, and if they can't find a dance partner, they will be forced to place Soshnikov on waivers and lose him for nothing, unless they demote Dermott or Kapanen (or Josh Leivo - but that would put them in the exact same bind, but with another player, as he would equally require waivers).
Stay tuned, we may very well have a trade in the coming hours.
Soshnikov has been injured for the better part of this season, only drawing into 3 games at the NHL level this year. in 19 games with the Marlies, he's put up 17 points, good for nearly a point-per-game.