John-Michael Liles is on his way back to the National Hockey League.
The Toronto Maple Leafs recalled the 32-year-old Indianapolis native from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, where he had a goal and four assists in eight games to start the season.
Liles will be the seventh defenceman for the Maple Leafs as they head out to play six of their next seven games on the road, with the next three coming in western Canada (Oct. 29 in Edmonton, Oct. 30 in Calgary, and Nov. 2 in Vancouver.)
The Maple Leafs waived Liles near the end of the preseason and sent him to the Marlies. However, because he didn’t play in 40 games with the Maple Leafs last season (he played in 32), he wasn’t subject to re-entry waivers despite having a contract that pays him $3,875,000 per season until 2015-16.
The Maple Leafs have forward Nikolai Kulemin and defenceman Mark Fraser on long-term injured reserve, meaning the Maple Leafs were able to take their combined cap hit ($4,075,000) off the books to make room for Liles while staying under the salary cap.
If Liles does see game action during Toronto’s road trip, it may be as a showcase for a trade. According to TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger, the Maple Leafs are willing to retain a significant chunk of Liles’ salary cap hit to encourage trade talks. As per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team can retain up to half of a player’s salary in a trade, meaning Liles could be had for a cap hit of less than $2 million if the Maple Leafs did retain half.
The wheels are turning in Leaf land, so we’ll see if general manger Dave Nonis has a move up his sleeve that could give Liles another shot at the NHL while adding an asset of some sort.
In 621 games over parts of nine NHL seasons, Liles has scored 77 goals and 236 assists for 313 career points.