Garret Sparks

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Trade: Clarkson contract back to Toronto; Vegas opens up space

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Nostalgia is in the air, as “The Lion King” remake is in theaters, so maybe it’s time to cue “The Circle of Life.”

In a peculiar bit of salary cap management, David Clarkson – er, David Clarkson’s contract – and the Toronto Maple Leafs are back together again. While Garret Sparks goes to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Maple Leafs receive a fourth-round pick for their troubles.

Maple Leafs get: Clarkson’s contract ($5.25M for one more season), Vegas 2020 fourth-round pick.

Golden Knights receive: Cap relief even though they were going to send Clarkson to LTIR; a decent goalie consideration with Garret Sparks.

This is all about cap and asset management for both teams.

Clarkson was headed to LTIR whether his contract stayed in Vegas or matriculated to Toronto, and now his deal can be neighbors with Nathan Horton after they were exchanged. The Maple Leafs still have some work to do, naturally, as they need to fit Mitch Marner into the mix. The numbers might melt your brain a bit.

The Golden Knights still need to sort out their own issues with Nikita Gusev lingering as a fascinating RFA, and that resolution hasn’t come yet. In the meantime, or maybe instead, the Golden Knights took advantage of extra wiggle room to bring back veteran (and Vegas-loving) defenseman Deryk Engelland for a cheap deal.

Depth goaltending also buzzed around these moves.

Again, Sparks represents an interesting consideration for Vegas, as Malcolm Subban hasn’t been an unqualified solution as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup. Perhaps Sparks would end up prevailing after both of their contracts expire following the 2019-20 season?

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs opened up room for a depth option as well, as they confirmed that Michal Neuvirth has been invited to training camp on a PTO.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

It kind of makes you want to dig up that Charlie Kelly mailroom conspiracy board to try to cover all the ins and outs, but the bigger picture takeaway is that the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights continue to work on their cap conundrums, and this trade was really just another step in the process.

At least it was a pretty odd and funny step, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Leafs’ Robidas cleared for contact, Clarkson injured

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The Toronto Maple Leafs got a bit of good news and bad news Saturday.

The good: offseason acquisition Stephane Robidas (broken leg) has been cleared for contact and is nearing a return.

Robidas, who signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Leafs in the summer, is coming off an injury plagued season in which he fractured his leg twice, first with the Dallas Stars and then with the Anaheim Ducks.

“I felt really good, there’s no pain or anything like that, it’s just the timing,” said Robidas following Saturday’s Leafs practice at the Air Canada Centre. “I think I need a few practices. Today was the first real practice that I did. We did a little bit of scrimmage.

“I couldn’t skate with anyone this summer so I just skated on my own. Conditioning wise I felt really good.”

The 37-year-old defenseman won’t play Sunday when the Leafs play the second of a home-and-home with the Buffalo Sabres in Toronto, but is hoping to be ready for the Leafs preseason finale on Oct. 3.

On Saturday, he spent time practicing with Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in what could be Toronto’s top pairing during the regular season.

“He’s a really good player,” said Robidas. “I’ve had the chance to see him play over the years. He’s a solid two-way player. He can move the puck and he can be physical. For me, it’s a big thing to play on the right side, I can’t play the left side so we’ll see what happens there.

“I’m comfortable playing with anyone, if I have a chance to play with a guy like Dion, for sure it’d be a lot of fun.”

The bad: forward David Clarkson was scheduled to see doctors Saturday to have his cheekbone looked at.

Clarkson dropped the gloves with Sabres tough guy Cody McCormick during the third period of the Leafs 6-4 win in Buffalo Friday night.

Clarkson took a big left hook from McCormick under the right eye and headed straight to the Leafs dressing room following the fight.

It was the 30-year-old’s first preseason game of the year as he missed the first four nursing a lower body injury.

If you’re a Leafs fan, you have to hope this isn’t a serious injury. Clarkson of course was suspended 10 games after leaving the bench to join an altercation against the very same Buffalo Sabres during the preseason last year. That suspension coupled with others and injuries allowed Clarkson to play in just 60 games last season where he scored a career-low five goals and 11 points.  This after he signed a monstrous seven-year, $37 million contract last summer.

Memo to Clarkson: maybe keep the gloves on, especially in the preseason.

Tallinder to see specialist

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said Saturday that any further information on defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who suffered a dislocated shoulder Friday, would come after further assessment. Tallinder, 35,  is at Leafs camp on a tryout.

Leafs make roster moves

The Leafs announced Saturday that Trevor Smith, Kevin Marshall and Spencer Abbott, all who were placed on waivers Friday, had cleared and would report to the AHL’s Marlies.

Toronto also assigned forward Tyler Biggs and goaltender Garret Sparks to their AHL affiliate Saturday.