Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Player Moves, Marner, Steeves & Rubins

Today represents the largest number of player moves I’ve seen before a Toronto Maple Leafs’ game in a long time. Most of those moves revolve around the Maple Leafs moving players up and down to help cover injuries. 

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Chief among the injury news is that both Mitch Marner and Rasmus Sandin are expected to miss multiple weeks to heal and rehab from injuries they suffered over the past week. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share some of that injury news and the resulting call-ups these injuries have necessitated.

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s going to be an interesting lineup that the Maple Leafs will ice tonight and over the next few weeks. Now the team gets to benefit from general manager Kyle Dubas’ stocking the cupboard with the Toronto Marlies. 

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As a reader wisely said last week, this is the first season he recalls that the Maple Leafs have solid injury replacements at almost all positions. Tonight we start to see just how solid.

Item One: Mitch Marner Will Miss Three to Four Weeks

Suddenly, the Maple Leafs will be tested hard. The news about Mitch Marner’s injury is worse than expected. It was reported that Marner underwent an MRI and results suggest he’ll miss up to a month. That means changes to the team’s top-six.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Given that Marner suffered his injury last Friday, the timetable for healing and rehab suggests he should be back on the ice just after Christmas. The Maple Leafs placed him on the IR (injured reserve list) today.  With Marner missing, look for either Jason Spezza (if he isn’t suspended immediately) or Alex Steeves to jump into the lineup against tonight’s opponents – the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Item Two: No Surprise, Jack Campbell Will Start Against the Blue Jackets

It’s his turn in the net, and Jack Campbell is taking it. He’ll start tonight in net against the Blue Jackets. Campbell just came off a flukey game against the Minnesota Wild, where the puck bounced crazy for both teams. Eventually, in that game he stopped 37 of 40 shots on the net, but his team couldn’t come back from a 3-0 deficit to win.

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Should Campbell win tonight, he’ll be the sole NHL leader in wins with 14. Right now he’s tied with two others – the New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin and the Wild’s Cam Talbot – with 13 wins. However, he still leads the NHL with a goals-against-average of 1.78 and a save percentage of .942. 

Item Three: Alex Steeves Jumps Up to the Maple Leafs

I’m not happy to see Marner missing time from an injury, but I’m really excited to see Alex Steeves play. I look forward to seeing him get a chance to show his stuff. And, it seems as if he has the stuff to show. Thus far with the AHL Toronto Marlies, he’s scored seven goals and added five assists (for 12 points) in 12 games. 

Steeves signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs after coming out of the University of Notre Dame (where he scored 32 points in 29 NCAA games) with the Fighting Irish. Given that the 21-year-old Steeves’ call-up was the flip side of the coin from Marner’s placement on the IR, it might be that the organization thinks the youngster is ready to play in the NHL.

Item Four: Maple Leafs Call Up Kristians Rubins

This is Kristians Rubins’, the 6-foot-5, 221-pound, left-shot defenseman from Latvia, fourth season with the Marlies. There’s a chance he’ll make his NHL debut soon. However, it isn’t clear whether that debut will be tonight or not. I’m guessing it will be.

The team has also called up NHL the 33-year-old veteran defenseman Alex Biega with Rubins to cover with both Travis Dermott and Rasmus Sandin out. Someone will draw into the game. So far this season, Rubins has scored a goal and has four points in 16 AHL games. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

It might be a tough stretch for the Maple Leafs. Sandin and Marner are each out for three or four weeks. Dermott is out with a shoulder injury. It might be that both Rubins and Steeves make their NHL debuts tonight. 

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On top of that, Jason Spezza’s hearing is set for today. Throughout his long NHL career, he’s never been suspended. However, that’s likely to change today. 

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Spezza might be suspended for five games or more for his hit on the Winnipeg Jets’ Neal Pionk. Pionk has already been suspended for his knee-on-knee hit on Sandin. We’ll know soon.

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