Leafs put Finger on waivers

The Maple Leafs put defenceman Jeff Finger on waivers Tuesday. (QMI Agency file)

The Maple Leafs put defenceman Jeff Finger on waivers Tuesday. (QMI Agency file)


, Last Updated: 6:08 PM ET

TORONTO - The marching orders took a little longer than expected, but Jeff Finger has been sent down the hall to the Toronto Marlies.

Placing the defenceman on waivers Tuesday puts $3.5 million US back in general manager Brian Burkes pocket for future emergencies after Toronto entered the season barely under the NHLs $59.4 million salary cap.

We dont want to carry eight defencemen, Burke said in an e-mail. We have not buried Jeff Finger. He needs to get back on his game.

But the move, assuming Finger clears waivers Wednesday, all but assures he will stay on the farm for a long spell. If hes recalled by the Leafs, the club runs the risk of another team claiming him off waivers for half his salary and Toronto suddenly getting stuck with the other half.

Finger has two years remaining on a four-year deal that interim GM Cliff Fletcher unwisely agreed to when the club tried to fast-track its way back to playoff contention after John Ferguson was let go as GM. Finger is a reliable player, but simply not worth such a huge salary.

Its not so much just a business move, coach Ron Wilson argued. Weve got seven guys better than him right now, if thats what it came down to. Were not going to carry eight defencemen, we dont even want to carry two extra forwards.

If Fings plays well then and somebody on our team isnt, then we recall him. All of us talked to Jeff and he understands the situation. Because of a couple of injuries to him (a knee injury at the start of camp), he didnt have great opportunities and the other guys performed well. And were waiting to see what Brett Lebda can do for us.

Lebda, an unrestricted free agent who was going to battle for the fifth or sixth spot on the blue line, is almost recovered from a shoulder injury. But he wont likely be employed on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, nor will extra forward John Mitchell, as the Leafs try and go 3-0 with the same lineup and play one man below the 23-man NHL maximum roster.