The Toronto Maple Leafs received a bit of good news regarding center John Tavares. The Leafs leading goal scorer returned from Europe for further medical evaluation after suffering an oblique injury with Team Canada in preparation for the 2019 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia earlier this week.
In an update via Twitter, the Leafs PR indicated that the oblique injury was a strain and that Tavares would be able to resume off-season training by mid-June (four weeks).
The health of Tavares and Auston Matthews (who underwent a procedure to remove screws from a leg injury suffered as a teenager last month) will be more important than ever for the Leafs going into next season, with both making over $11 Million salaries and possible changes to the Toronto roster for the purposes of making room under the salary cap for the new contracts of RFA’s Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson.
The mystery regarding Mike Babcock’s status for next season was finally confirmed last week, as Kyle Dubas confirmed that the Leafs bench boss will be back for his fifth season, but the status quo may not apply for Babcock’s coaching staff.
The club gave the Ottawa Senators permission to speak to assistant DJ Smith and there is some speculation that he might be someone that Ken Holland or Jason Botterill would want to speak to regarding the head coaching vacancies in Edmonton or Buffalo.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on this week’s “31 Thoughts” podcast that assistant Jim Hiller will likely not be back. In spite of having a year left on his contract, the Leafs have given other NHL teams permission to speak to Hiller, who has been with Babcock since being hired by Toronto in 2015 and is known for his work on the power play.
Friedman indicated that the Nashville Predators (who had the league’s worst ranking with the man advantage during the regular season), the Florida Panthers, and other clubs may be interested in hiring Hiller.
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