Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Knies, Jarnkrok, Simmonds & More

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers have different motivations as they head into their game tonight. The Maple Leafs are already guaranteed to finish second in the Atlantic Division; however, the Panthers are in a dogfight with the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final two playoff spots.

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The Panthers desperately need to win their final two games. Helping them do that is this season’s newcomer Matthew Tkachuk. He now has totaled a career-high 108 points. The Panthers are also receiving some help from a surprising spot. Backup goalie Alex Lyon has won six straight games since goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has been out with an illness.

Related: Tkachuk Shows His Ignorance Discussing Maple Leafs’ Campbell Injury

The Maple Leafs will likely engage in some load management tonight. It didn’t seem to hurt them against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. 

Latest News & Highlight

In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll look at some of the player news emerging from the team as they prepare for Monday’s game.

Item One: Matthew Knies Signs with Maple Leafs

Perhaps the biggest – or at least the most anticipated – news is that Matthew Knies has signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the team. His University of Minnesota Golden Gophers were beaten in overtime of the finals of the Frozen Four on Saturday by Quinnipiac University (a private university in Hamden, Connecticut). However, Knies finished a successful sophomore season with 21 goals and 22 assists (for 42 points) in 40 games. 

Matthew Knies University of Minnesota
Matthew Knies, University of Minnesota (University of Minnesota Athletics)

Knies was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the second round (57th overall) of the 2021 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-3 winger has had many great experiences that might help him with the Maple Leafs. 

Related: Longest NHL Games in the Post-Expansion Era

As Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas noted upon Knies’ signing, “In two seasons playing for Coach [Bob] Motzko and his program at the University of Minnesota, Matthew has participated in two Big Ten championship games, two NCAA Frozen Four Championships, one world junior championship tournament, and one Winter Olympic Games.” He’s building a resume.

Item Two: Calle Jarnkrok Out, but He Will Travel to Florida

Calle Jarnkrok did not practice yesterday due to an undisclosed injury. He also missed the Canadiens’ game on Saturday. His status for tonight’s game against the Panthers is uncertain. But the good news is that Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reported that Jarnkrok’s MRI came back clean.

Calle Jarnkrok Toronto Maple Leafs
Calle Jarnkrok, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Jarnkrok will travel with the team for its upcoming road trip. In his first season with the Maple Leafs, Jarnkrok has scored 19 goals and added 18 assists (for 37 points) in 71 games. 

Item Three: Matt Murray Won’t Be on the Trip to Florida

Goalie Matt Murray remains day-to-day with a head injury and will not travel with the team to start its season-ending three-game road trip. Keefe confirmed there’s been no change in Murray’s injury status. 

However, when asked if Joseph Woll would travel with the team, Keefe was a bit iffy. He noted, “I am not quite sure. There is a lot of stuff happening with that. Roster status is up in the air at this point in terms of what it will look like.” It sounds like salary-cap issues are being worked out.

Related: Canadiens’ Ken Dryden – Truly One of a Kind

So far, it’s unclear who will serve as Ilya Samsonov’s backup in Murray’s absence. After playing the Panthers, the Maple Leafs have a quick back-to-back against the Tampa Bay Lighting. I was hoping to see Woll play in Tampa Bay. 

Item Four: Wayne Simmonds Assigned to AHL

Wayne Simmonds was assigned to the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Toronto Marlies this weekend. He played 18 games with the Maple Leafs this season and had two assists, 44 hits, and 49 penalty minutes. His move to the AHL helped create the salary-cap space needed for the team to sign Knies to his entry-level contract.

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Simmonds has likely played his last game (at least in the regular season) with the Blue & White. It’s also likely he’s played the last game of his career. If so, he ended it in Simmonds style. Against the Canadiens, Simmonds engaged in a fight with Michael Pezzetta. Was it a fitting “last hurrah?” Later in the game, Simmonds also earned a double minor after engaging with Joel Edmundson while defending Michael Bunting. 

We’ll see if Simmonds dresses for a playoff game, especially against the Lightning. They are a team that will probably try to push the Maple Leafs physically. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

As they always are, this season’s playoffs will be exciting. They’ll need to find some scoring consistency if they want to make a deep playoff run. The Maple Leafs have a potent offense; each player in the Core Four has scored at least 30 goals this season.

Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Comparing the Core Four’s Dollar Value

Mitch Marner has had a standout season, and Auston Matthews seems to be getting hot at the right time. I’m looking for both of these players to continue their strong play and for the team to get secondary scoring from their depth players.

I said this last season as well, but the Maple Leafs could be a dangerous team this postseason.