You never want to see a player go down with a long-term injury as Matt Murray did in Saturday’s practice prior to the Maple Leafs’ home game with the Ottawa Senators. The Maple Leafs subsequently placed Murray on Long Term Injury Reserve.
Samsonov Should Be Able to Carry the Load Until Murray Returns
If we’ve counted right, Murray will be out until November sixth, which happens to be the second of their next back-to-back games. The Maple Leafs are in Carolina to take on the Hurricane that night after playing the Boston Bruins in Toronto the night before. The timing could not have been better if Murray’s ready to go for that game.
Meanwhile, until those back-to-back games on November 5 and 6, the Maple Leafs play nine games in 21 days. As long as he plays well enough and stays healthy (knock on wood), Samsonov should be quite capable of carrying the load. If Samsonov should struggle, Kallgren has shown he has the capability to give the Maple Leafs adequate goaltending.
Considering the Maple Leafs’ Bigger Picture
As for the bigger picture, removing Murray’s $4,687,500 salary from the Maple Leafs’ cap hit gives the team flexibility it didn’t have previously. The team was four dollars under the $82.5 million NHL salary cap prior to them placing Murray on LTIR with a roster of the bare minimum of 20 players. The team had absolutely no flexibility to move anyone up or down in the organization without having to place someone on waivers and risk losing them.
Now the Maple Leafs have enough room to carry the league’s maximum of 23 players if they wish. More importantly, they have options to move players in and out of the lineup.
The Maple Leafs Coming Roster Moves
The first move the Maple Leafs did yesterday was to recall Erik Kallgren to serve as backup. Luckily for the team, Kallgren was declared healthy and cleared to play after getting run over the previous night and had to leave the game when the Marlies were in Rochester to take on the Americans. After placing Murray on LTIR and recalling Kallgren the team now has $3,937,500 in additional cap space.
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We expect the next move will be to call up Nick Robertson. With the training camp Robertson had, he fully deserved to be on this team but was the unfortunate victim of the waiver exemption rule. It would not surprise us to see Robertson inserted into the lineup on Monday when the Maple Leafs take on the Arizona Coyotes in the third game of their present four-game home stand.
Robertson is not that far removed from the team where head coach Sheldon Keefe would feel he would need practice reps before inserting him into the lineup. If Keefe did want to give Robertson some practice time, the team has two days after the Coyotes game before they take on the Dallas Stars. Either way, we’re confident we’ll see Robertson in the lineup at some point this week.
Denis Malgin has played well in the first three games of the season; but, after scoring a goal in his first game, he has not figured into the scoring since. Zach Aston-Reese has put up terrible underlying statistics in the three games he has played. We could see Robertson replacing Malgin on the second line alongside John Tavares and William Nylander, and Malgin dropping down to the bottom six to replace Aston-Reese.
Timothy Liljegren’s Situation
Also of importance is the Timothy Liljegren situation and what effect his return to the lineup would have on the team’s roster. With a completely healthy team, the Maple Leafs were going to be over the salary cap limit by about $1.4 million upon Liljegren’s return.
With the added cap space from Murray’s injury, the team can kick that can down the road a bit, and welcome Liljegren back without having to make a reciprocal roster move.
The Maple Leafs’ Goalie Cupboard Is Bare
The one thing Murray’s absence does is leave the cupboard quite bare. With the exception of 2022 fourth-round pick Dennis Hildeby who’s 21 and has a total of seven games played in anything above the junior level to his name, the Maple Leafs have only two goalies signed to NHL contracts. Even with Liljegren’s $1.4 million back on the books, the Maple Leafs would still have about $2.5 million in cap space to bring in another goalie.
If one of these goalies were to get hurt, the team would have to either sign and promote either Keith Petruzzelli or Dylan Ferguson from the Marlies or acquire a goalie from outside their system.
Murray’s Injury Isn’t Good, But It Isn’t All Bad Either
As we stated off the top, while you never want to see players injured, Murray’s injury could be a bit of a blessing in disguise for the Maple Leafs and their salary cap situation.
In the meantime, until Murray returns, Maple Leafs’ fans will wait to see what moves the team will make on its roster.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
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The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf