Toronto Maple Leafs center Dylan Gambrell sustained a concussion in practice yesterday and is “out for the foreseeable future,” head coach Sheldon Keefe informed reporters today (relayed by Mark Masters of TSN). Gambrell signed a one-year, one-way league-minimum deal to join Toronto shortly after free agency opened in July.
It’s an unfortunate development for Gambrell, who hoped to compete for a fourth-line role to start the season in Toronto. That already became less likely with William Nylander shifting to center, bumping David Kämpf down to the fourth line, but it now seems even more likely Gambrell will be waived when healthy and, if he clears, assigned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. There is no current timeline for his return, but if he’s expected to miss at least ten games and 24 days to start the season, he could join Matt Murray and Jake Muzzin on long-term injured reserve, giving Toronto some much-needed salary cap maneuverability to start the season, even with just his marginal $775K cap hit. With the unpredictability of recovery timelines from concussions, this scenario could very well play out.
Gambrell, 27, is entering his seventh NHL season. After beginning his career with the San Jose Sharks, he spent the last two seasons with the Ottawa Senators, playing a fourth-line center role. Despite recording over a point per game during all three of his collegiate campaigns at the University of Denver, he hasn’t had any sustained success at the NHL level. Last season, he recorded four goals, six assists and ten points in 60 games, winning just 45.1% of his draws and posting quite poor possession numbers (44.8% Corsi For, -8.2% relative Corsi For at even strength). Overall, he’s notched 40 points in 223 games, along with a -28 rating throughout his six-year career.
This opens up a clearer path for one of his former Sharks teammates, Noah Gregor, to sign a contract with the team after attending camp on a PTO. Gregor has routinely taken line rushes at left wing alongside Kämpf and Ryan Reaves throughout camp and hit the ten-goal mark for the first time in his four-year career last season with San Jose.