Monday was moving day for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as one player moved closer to returning to action, others moved down in the lineup, and others were shifted to less prominent roles on special teams, but one area where there will not be moves made for at least a little while will be in goal.
Speculation has increased that Kyle Dubas is looking to upgrade his backup to Frederik Andersen, as Michael Hutchinson and Kasimir Kaskisuo have lost all seven starts this season, but the Leafs GM does not appear to be pushing the panic button just yet.
“We are always looking at the trade market every day for every position,” Dubas said at the Ford Performance Centre. “What I would really like more than anything is for us to put together a good game in front of Michael in the coming stretch and give him an opportunity as well. I thought he was outstanding in the first period against Buffalo, and I think we got a little bit sloppy thereafter.”
Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated that for the upcoming back-to-back in Philadelphia and at home against Colorado that Andersen would go on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center and that Hutchinson would get the start at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.
The vote of confidence given to Hutchinson may be an indicator that the current price for a backup is too rich for the Leafs. It is common knowledge that it has been an area of need since Curtis McElhinney was waived 14 months ago and potential trade partners knowing that would likely increase the asking price. One option available is claiming a goalie on waivers (as the Montreal Canadiens did on Monday with veteran Keith Kinkaid), but the former Devil’s $1.75 Million price tag is too rich for Toronto in their current cap situation, and claiming a player would put the Leafs at the maximum 50 pro contracts.
Mitch Marner practiced fully with the club for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on November 9, and could be activated off long-term injured reserve as soon as Wednesday. The winger took his normal spot with center John Tavares and Ilya Mikheyev. Zach Hyman was shifted to the third line with Alex Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen, Frederik Gauthier skated between Pierre Engvall and Dmytro Timashov, while Nic Petan, Jason Spezza and Nick Shore were extra skaters.
Marner’s return also shook up the first power play, as the top unit resumed their four forward - one defenseman structure with Marner, Tavares, William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and Tyson Barrie, with Morgan Rielly shifting to second unit.
"(Barrie) is outstanding on the power play. He’s got a great shot and he’s been doing it for a long time." Rielly said. "Especially with our unit that hasn’t exactly been scorching hot, I think it’s a good opportunity to change things up.”
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