By Stan Smith & The Old Prof
On the opening day of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ training camp, it was announced that two roster players came into camp with health issues.
First, Pierre Engvall came into camp with a knee injury that might keep him off the ice until near the end of the preseason. That would most likely mean Engvall would not be placed on LTIR.
Timothy Liljegren Is Not So Lucky with His Injury
Such is not the case with Timothy Liljegren. It was announced earlier this week that Liljegren had offseason hernia surgery and was expected to miss about six weeks. If that six-week period starts this week, it means he would return on or about the first week of November. The Maple Leafs will have played almost a dozen regular-season games by that date.
That leaves us with the expectation that the Maple Leafs will place Liljegren on Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) to start the regular season. (A player placed on LTIR has to remain there for at least 10 games and 24 days.)
That is both good and bad news for the Maple Leafs.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: 5 Key Early-Season Questions
The Good News About Liljegren’s Absence
Placing Liljegren on LTIR gives the Maple Leafs $1.4 million in salary cap relief to start the season. The website CapFriendly presently has the Maple Leafs $1,493,116 over the $82.5 million salary cap with a roster of 22 players. These players include fourteen forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies.
Removing Liljegren and his cap hit leaves them only $93,116 over the salary cap.
Additionally, we can’t see the Maple Leafs starting the season with 14 forwards. Dropping one of them at the very least gives the team at minimum an additional $750,000 in cap space putting them $656,884 under the salary cap.
The Bad News About Liljegren’s Absence
The Maple Leafs are extremely thin on the right side of their defence. They only have two righthanded defensemen on the roster, Liljegren and Justin Holl. Lefthander TJ Brodie has played the majority of his Maple Leafs’ tenure on the right-hand side, giving the team three players on the right side of the defence.
With Liljegren out, and Rasmus Sandin still unsigned, that leaves the offseason signings of Victor Mete and Jordie Benn as the two most likely call-ups. Both are lefthanded players who have some experience playing the right side. Given the training camp line matchups and defensive pairings, it would seem that Mete has the leg up as the right-side replacement.
Looking at the Salary Cap Issues One More Time
Getting back to the salary cap issue, at this moment, the Maple Leafs’ defensive roster consists of Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Mark Giordano on the left side. On the right side are TJ Brodie and Holl. Using our superior mathematical skills and ability to count to five leaves the team one player shy of the six required. If the team was to add either Mete or Benn, it adds another $750,000 to their roster, once again putting them $93,116 over the cap.
That would force the team to remove another forward, giving them a minimum of 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and two goalies. In the short term, that configuration is doable. However, it’s not ideal in the long term.
If the team negotiates an agreement that results in a Sandin contract before the start of the regular season, that would complicate things even more. It might force the team to make some kind of a roster move to get themselves back under the salary cap.