All the talk surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs this season has been centred around the impending unrestricted free agents on the team. Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komarov... you get the picture.
Add to that the fact that there's no certainty Lou Lamoriello gets extended as general manager of the Leafs. His contract expires this season.
Then there's all the talks about who the team goes out and acquires to solidify the blue line. There have been plenty of mentions of the "big three". No, not Kevin, Kate and Randall Pearson from NBC's hit TV show This Is Us.
Drew Doughty. Erik Karlsson. Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
It's far from certain any of them will ever wear the blue and white uniforms, but it still dominates talks around the media.
One much less significant, albeit well-liked name in the locker room that has flown under the radar and appears to be getting phased out of the team's plans is Matt Martin.
Toronto reporter Jeff Veillette has picked up on a rather surprising situation that's unfolding with the quasi-enforcer. After being signed to a 4-year/$10 million deal with Toronto in 2016, he's had his minutes cut more and more, to the point where he's become a healthy scratch on two different occasions this season, a first for him here.
Despite playing his role better this season than last year, he's been getting less and less ice time, never eclipsing 7 and half minutes in the month of January.
He was playing around 9 minutes last year, and in his time with the New York Islanders, 11 to 12 minutes.
With the emergence of several young players, like Connor Brown, Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo, and others in the pipeline, Martin is holding onto a precarious position on the roster. There's very little need for enforcers in today's game, although some teams still covet it.
Veillette points to the Ryan Reaves trade in Pittsburgh this past summer as an example. He fetched a first round pick in a package deal with the St. Louis Blues.
The report goes on to say that Martin will likely continue to play, although with limited ice-time. The idea is to keep his value up enough that he won't be worthless in a trade this summer.
"But come the summer? If things like the Ryan Reaves trade remind us of anything, it’s that while the market is cooling on capable fists, there are teams that want them still," Veillette wrote. "Martin is well respected league-wide and is all but guaranteed have an up-year on paper. With two years remaining at $2.5 million, I wouldn’t be surprised if a team asks about him, and the Leafs listened. By then, they’ll need that last roster spot and that cap space more than ever. They’d lose a personality in the room, but if you combine their veteran signings this summer with the fact the younger core has had time to settle in, that won’t be as pressing of a concern as it may have been a year ago.
We’ll have to see what happens, though. He might stick around for a while yet. But looking at how his minutes have dropped despite better play, and how the team (and the league itself) have evolved around him, I wouldn’t be shocked if the clock is starting to tick."