By Stan Smith
After an off day following their 4-2 loss to the lowly Arizona Coyotes on Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the ice for a full practice yesterday.
The Maple Leafs’ Practice Lines
Here are the lines as tweeted by David Alter.
First Line: Bunting-Matthews-Marner
Second Line: Robertson-Tavares-Nylander
Third Line” Engvall-Kerfoot-Jarnkrok
Fourth Line” Aston-Reese-Kampf-AubeKubel
Extras: Malgin, Simmonds
First Defensive Pairing: Rielly-Brodie
Second Defensive Pairing: Sandin-Holl
Third Defensive Pairing: Giordano-Mete
Extra: Kral, Liljegren, Benn
Notes about Lines
Denis Malgin was replaced by Nick Robertson on the second line and was skating as an extra along with Wayne Simmonds.
On defense, Rasmus Sandin moved up alongside Justin Holl in replace of Jake Muzzin.
Victor Mete moves into Sandin’s spot on the third pair with Mark Giordano.
Despite the lousy numbers that Zach Aston-Reese and Nicolas Aube-Kubel have posted through their first four games it appears that head coach Sheldon Keefe is not willing to give up on them as of yet as the fourth line was left intact.
There was good and bad news relating to Jake Muzzin’s injury he suffered in Monday’s game. The best news is that it was confirmed as a neck injury and not a concussion. More good news is that the injury is not deemed serious enough to put Muzzin on Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR).
The bad news is that Muzzin was placed on Injury Reserve (IR). What that means is that Muzzin is ineligible to play in a game for a minimum of seven days. Muzzin will be sidelined for the Dallas game Thursday night as well as the first two games of the upcoming five-game road trip, Saturday in Winnipeg and Monday in Las Vegas.
As per NHL Injury Reserve rules, placing Muzzin on IR allows the Maple Leafs to call up a replacement player but does not give the team any relief from Muzzin’s cap hit. With Timothy Liljegren and Matt Murray already on LTIR, the Maple Leafs still had about $1.4 million in cap space. At the same time the team placed Muzzin on IR, they called up Filip Kral as his replacement on the roster. Unless Mete struggles, we don’t expect to see Krall to see any game action. We think his callup is more about letting him spend time, and practice with the big team.
As a reciprocal move the Marlies signed former Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman Danny DeKeyser to a professional tryout to replace Krall on their roster.
After Sheldon Keefe called out his core players following the loss to the Coyotes, stating “The difference between us and Arizona is that we have elite players… Our elite players didn’t play like elite players.” It was reported the team had a closed meeting so that Keefe could explain to the players what he meant by what he said.
Following practice today Keefe clarified his post game comments with the following statement: “The difference in the game was that we weren’t able to produce, whether on the power play or at five-on-five. That is really the difference with all of the puck time we had. By no means was I meaning anything beyond that, which is what I wanted them to be sure of. As it turned out, they didn’t know what I was talking about, which is a good thing. At the same time, it is important that they know where I was coming from.”
It will be interesting to see how the Leafs’ core players react to Keefe’s comments and how they perform against the Dallas Stars.
Good News on the Salary Cap
Following the recent NHL Governer’s meeting in New York NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman met with reporters and made the following statement:
“We believe that there’s a good possibility that the escrow will be paid off this season. May not be, but it’s going to be close, we think,” Bettman said. “Which means the flat cap will be replaced by a bigger increase – if not [next] season, then the [following] one.”
Bettman went on to say that if the escrow is not fully paid by the end of this season it should definitely get paid off by the following summer. If that is the case the salary cap would increase by a million next summer with the bigger increase to come the following summer.
This is good news for the Maple Leafs. Both Auston Matthews and William Nylander are due new contracts in the summer of 2024 followed by Mitch Marner and John Tavares requiring new deals in 2025. A major increase to the salary cap could go a long way to securing those players to new deals.