The Toronto Maple Leafs made a number of moves in response to Mitch Marner’s ankle injury and backup goalie Michael Hutchinson being placed on waivers. After clearing waivers, Hutchinson was assigned to the AHL Toronto Marlies and the Leafs recalled forward Nic Petan and goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo.
Hutchinson is 0-4-1, with a 4.44 GAA and .879 save percentage in five starts for Toronto this season and for the time being will take over as the Marlies primary starter, splitting time with rookie Joseph Woll.
Kaskisuo has a 6-1-1 record, 2.13 GAA and .928 save percentage in the AHL this season and was the Marlies netminder for their deep run in the Calder Cup Playoffs last spring, but his promotion does not exclude the possibility of the Leafs looking outside the organization for a long term solution to their ongoing backup issues.
The 26-year-old could make his first NHL start this weekend, when Toronto has back-to-back games against Boston on Friday and in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The possibility of Frederik Andersen starting in both games is remote based on the club’s load management with their starter and the fact that the game against the Penguins would be the Leafs third game in four nights.
Toronto is currently at 49 professional contracts and up against the salary cap. The placing of Marner on LTIR (which will likely occur this week) only opens up cap space temporarily, so GM Kyle Dubas will be limited to backups making under $1 Million (as Hutchinson was) or if another team would retain salary on a goalie making more than that in a trade.
Possible options that Toronto could explore are former Leaf Calvin Pickard (currently playing for Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids) or Louis Domingue (recently traded from Tampa to New Jersey and playing in Binghamton).
A free agent like former Chicago and Carolina goalie Scott Darling is unlikely, since Dubas would be using the only pro contract left under the limit of 50. According to the The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta, the Leafs reached out to Darling, who was bought out by Florida after being swapped for James Reimer last summer, but the 30-year-old opted to sign in Austria.
Petan has been placed and cleared waivers twice and shuttled back and forth between the Leafs and Marlies in the first five weeks. The 24-year-old has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in three AHL games, but only one assist in five games with the Leafs. With the absence of Marner, the speedy and small winger could get some time on the third line in place of veteran Jason Spezza, who was -2 and played only nine minutes in the 5-4 loss to Chicago on Sunday.
In a bit of good news, winger Zach Hyman is expected to make his season debut in Long Island on Wednesday after missing training camp, the preseason and the first 19 games rehabilitating his knee after off-season ACL surgery.
“(The knee) felt good today. Hyman said at the Leafs practice facility on Tuesday. “(We were) just making sure that I was ready. You never know with an injury like this, it’s a long (recovery) process.”
Marner met with the media for the first time since being diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and indicated that he will be spending the next month or so working in the gym and trying to make his shot stronger, but is disappointed that he will be out of the lineup.
“When I fell, I felt something funny. To be honest, at that time I looked back and expected to see my ankle twisted back the wrong way.” Marner said. “I was ready for something worse than what the actual injury was, so there are always positives.”
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