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Dermott injury puts more focus on Leafs need for defensive upgrade

May 10, 2019, 2:48 PM ET [94 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have had their share of injury news since their loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the first round last month. The off-season surgery to remove “hardware” from Auston Matthews leg and the injury that John Tavares suffered with Team Canada this week are not expected to affect anything more than their off-season training programs (although there has not been an update on the center’s oblique injury as of yet).

The knee and shoulder injuries to winger Zach Hyman and defenseman Travis Dermott are going to impact the Leafs well into next season and could affect what GM Kyle Dubas does in the trade and free agent market this summer.

Hyman suffered an ACL tear in Game 4 in a collision with Bruins winger Brad Marchand, while Dermott’s shoulder was injured when Edmonton’s Brad Malone hit him awkwardly into the boards in late February, but he was able to rehab and return for the playoffs. Both have an expected recovery time of six months, which means they will miss training camp and could be unavailable for as much as the first quarter of the regular season.

In spite of Hyman being on the club’s top line with Tavares and Mitch Marner, the Leafs organization has enough depth at forward to cover the loss of arguably their best two-way forward for a month, with Trevor Moore likely starting the year in the NHL, and Mason Marchment, Ilya Mikheyev, Egor Korshkov, Jeremy Bracco and Pierre Engvall pushing for a job, but the left side could be vulnerable with Andreas Johnsson a restricted free agent and Patrick Marleau starting to show signs of slowing down.

Does Hyman’s absence increase the likelihood of re-signing veteran Tyler Ennis??

The Leafs were already in a precarious position defensively, with their cap crunch preventing them from bringing back Jake Gardiner. Dermott was likely going to move up into Toronto’s top four with Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev, but with his absence until November, Dubas will have to determine whether youngsters Timothy Liljegren and 2018 top pick Rasmus Sandin are capable of making the jump, or whether Calle Rosen can handle a heavier workload.

If they are not certain or do not want to rush a 19-or-20-year-old defenseman into the NHL, it may make the return of 38-year-old Ron Hainsey for another year a necessity. It could also turn up the heat on the Leafs GM to make addressing the blueline in a trade more of a priority.


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