Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft, Kyle Wellwood and Scott Clemmensen felt the sting of Cliff Fletcher's broom yesterday and more team-wide pain might follow.
While it's less likely the general manager has enough reach to dislodge defenceman Bryan McCabe by trade or buyout, as he tries to cut as much salary as possible before Tuesday's free agent shopping begins, yesterday was the long-anticipated housecleaning blitz on Bay St.
"We've been consistent in saying that we would make around half a dozen changes," Fletcher said yesterday.
Tucker, who was just moving into a new house 16 months after signing a four-year extension, will be terminated today by the Leafs, who must still eat two-thirds, or $1 million a season for the next six years, under their salary cap. The Canadian Press learned last night that Fletcher called the 33-year-old right winger to prepare him for today's transaction.
Comments from incoming coach Ron Wilson that Tucker looked "worn down" after getting 34 points last season were probably the last straw. "He'll have no trouble finding employment," was the frequent comment made by Tucker's agent, Carlos Sosa, who last night told CP that the Leafs move was simply "business".
Tucker, who joined the Leafs in 2000, could not be reached for comment, but he had taken less money to take a longer term in his adopted city.
Fletcher sounded less sure that the trade overtures begun in Ottawa at last week's draft would bear fruit for players such as McCabe.
Wellwood and Raycroft were placed on NHL waivers, with expiration at noon today. Centre Matt Stajan has been qualified, but might still have to go to salary arbitration, while Fletcher will not extend free agent minor league goalie Clemmensen a new contract, meaning two stoppers might have to be brought in for depth purposes this season.
Wellwood's meteoric career as a 100-point junior, farm team star and creative young centre turned into two injury-plagued seasons with concerns about his motivation.
"It was an organizational decision that all the pro scouts were in on," Fletcher said.
Wellwood or agent Mike Liut could not be reached for comment. Fletcher raised the possibility of a buyout of the restricted free agent, once considered the key to the Leafs' power play, pending another team making a claim. The New York Islanders might be interested.
In re-assigning Raycroft, Fletcher is trying to rectify one of predecessor John Ferguson's biggest mistakes. JFJ's faith that Raycroft could replace Ed Belfour, to the point of trading prospect Tuukka Rask to land him, slowly evaporated in a series of soft goals, fan anger and continued failure to win big games as Vesa Toskala's back-up.
But Raycroft's agent, Jordan Neumann, was hopeful that he wouldn't be bought out if not claimed.
"My thought is that he'll then be placed on recall waivers (later this year)," Neumann said of the option of another team getting the Leafs to pay half of Raycroft's $2.2 million US salary.