Maple Leafs New Defenseman Conor Timmins: What Now?

Just over a week ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for right-shot defenseman Conor Timmins. Headed the other way was Curtis Douglas. At the time of the trade, there was relief in Maple Leafs’ nation. The team’s defense was hurt – and badly. 

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I admit that, at the time, I thought that Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe would jump Timmins into the lineup sooner rather than later. What I didn’t know then was that the Big Mac Attack (Auston Matthews’ nickname for Mac Hollowell) would play five games in a row and would begin to play with more confidence. 

Timmins Is Moving from Bandaid to Prospect

Timmins now has been with the team for a week, practicing and preparing. When he was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Maple Leafs, it seemed that his first job with the Maple Leafs would be to bandage some of the team’s wounds on the blue line. In addition, over the longer term, Timmins was that rarest of breeds for the Maple Leafs – a right-shot defenseman. He had to fit somewhere – right?

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly’s injury spurred the Toronto Maple Leafs action.
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Of course, Timmins checked off three of the other requisite needs on his resume. First, the 24-year-old was a local lad from nearby St. Catherines. Second, had played with the Soo Greyhounds for three seasons between 2015 and 2018. Third, there was once a thought Timmins had huge potential. He was the Colorado Avalanche’s pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (32nd overall). He was the kind of project that the Maple Leafs often sought.

Related: How Will the Maple Leafs Survive Morgan Rielly’s Injury?

Who knows what to make of Timmins now? He’s not come close to realizing his potential. Can he? It was once believed he would become a solid NHL defenseman. But injuries have taken their toll on the 24-year-old. [By the way, Timmins at 24 is exactly the same age as Hollowell.] 

Timmins’ Arrival Invites Two Questions

Now that Timmins has arrived and is one of the team’s NHL contracts, two questions pop up. First, can he offer short-term help? Can he cover for some of the currently-injured Maple Leafs’ defensemen? Second, does he have a longer-term future with the team? And, given his Soo Greyhounds’ connection, one would have to think that Timmins was picked up looking for both the short and the longer-term future.

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Now that Timmins is healthy, which has been rare in the past, how high might he be able to rise up the organization’s depth chart?

Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek Weigh In on Timmins’ Arrival

Just after Timmins came in a trade, in their 32 Thoughts Podcast, NHL insiders Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed the trade and spoke specifically about Timmins coming to Toronto.

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They made several points. First, they believed the Coyotes did Timmins “a favour” by trading him to the Maple Leafs. They believed that, because injuries have piled up and the Maple Leafs were in need of defensemen, Timmins would have a good chance to put his career back on track.

Second, Friedman and Marek saw the trade coming and noted that it had been in the works for a while. Friedman knew the Coyotes were going to put Timmons on waivers, but he didn’t think Timmons (with his low salary-cap hit of $850,000) would have cleared. The Coyotes would have lost him for nothing.

Third, Friedman believed the Coyotes did well to get a player (Douglas) in return. Fourth, Friedman believed Timmins wanted to come to Toronto and reiterated that Toronto needed him because of the blue line injuries. 

Related: Maple Leafs Should Look to Canadiens to Strengthen Defense

Fifth, Friedman noted the upside for Maple Leafs because Timmins’ salary-cap hit was small enough to manage. Finally, Friedman also mentioned the Soo connection that he believed coach Keefe and general manager Kyle Dubas prized so much. Both knew Timmins and believed he had potential.

If Timmins Can Stay Healthy, What’s Next?

Ironicly, Timmins is coming to the Maple Leafs to help them cover their injuries. However, his own injuries have stopped him from reaching his potential. Thus far, Timmins has only been able to play 41 NHL games. 

Timmins could play that many games this season. Sooner or later, Timmins will get a chance to play with the Blue and White. If he plays well, he might be able to join the Maple Leafs’ roster for a longer future. 

In truth, bringing Timmins to Toronto wasn’t much of a gamble by the Maple Leafs. As both Friedman and Marek remarked: “nobody doubts his (Timmins) talent.” 

Now Timmins just has to stay healthy when he gets his chance to play. He’ll have every chance at success.