The Toronto Maple Leafs had to be pleased to have their core / top six group together for the first time in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, as forwards Zach Hyman, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner were all back after pending significant time on the injured list. That good feeling lasted exactly one game, as the club announced on Friday that winger Andreas Johnsson suffered a leg injury and has been placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).
Johnsson left the ice in the second period after blocking a point shot and did not return. Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated after the game that Johnsson’s injury was not serious and that he did not expect him to miss any time, but a CT scan on Thursday revealed more damage.
With the Leafs just $42,017 under the salary cap, the club placed Johnsson on LTIR, which means that they will get cap relief for the winger’s $3.4 Million salary, but that he will not be eligible to be activated until December 30. Toronto recalled forward Nic Petan, and defenseman Martin Marincin (who had been sent down on Wednesday to make room for Marner), and also called up winger Pontus Aberg from the Toronto Marlies.
The 26-year-old has NHL experience with stints in Nashville, Edmonton, Anaheim, and Minnesota, and leads the Leafs AHL affiliate with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 22 games.
Toronto embarks on a four-game road trip starting in St.Louis on Saturday and through Western Canada next week, and potentially faced a difficult situation being able to carry only 21 players (13 F, 6 D, 2 G) on their roster due to cap constraints while away from home, but with the injury the Leafs are able to carry a full 23-man roster.
The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel reports that Aberg is replacing Johnsson on the top line alongside Auston Matthews, and William Nylander at practice, instead of scrambling every line due to the absence of one player.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman spoke about the Leafs ongoing concerns about backing up Frederik Andersen and indicated in spite of their limitations against the cap, the club has to at least be considering acquiring another goaltender.
"(Toronto is) in a really tough spot, but I find it impossible to believe that they haven't looked into it. Friedman said on Fan 590 Friday morning. “You can’t have the results they’ve had and be in the spot they are to not be contemplating it.”
The Leafs passed on Louis Domingue when Tampa placed him on waivers and made him available to trade, and had no interest in former Winnipeg prospect Eric Comrie when Arizona was shopping him recently.
Friedman wonders if Toronto has interest in Rangers 23-year-old backup Alexander Georgiev (7-4-1, 2.98 GAA, .918 save percentage) or Penguins backup Tristian Jarry, both who make less than current Leafs backup Michael Hutchinson.
New York has prospect Igor Shestyorkin putting up fantastic numbers in the AHL, Pittsburgh has backup Casey DeSmith playing well in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Georgiev would need to go through waivers if he plays five more NHL games, and the Penguins kept Jarry on the NHL roster because they knew someone looking for goaltending depth would claim him.
The question in both options would be the price that New York GM Jeff Gorton or Pittsburgh’s Jim Rutherford would be looking to extract for their backups, which based on the Leafs level of desperation could be exceedingly high.
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