After losing three starters in Tuesday night’s game against the rival Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs were left with little choice but to tweak their roster. Up against the salary cap and managing a number of injuries, Toronto has opted to move forward Ondrej Kase to the Long-Term Injured Reserve, CapFriendly reports. This raised the Leafs’ LTIR pool just enough to make three emergency recalls while staying under the upper limit of the cap. Promoted to the NHL roster are defensemen Mac Hollowell and Filip Kral and goaltender Michael Hutchinson, who will replace Justin Holl, Ilya Lyubushkin, and Petr Mrazek, each of whom exited last night’s game.
Kase has been out since suffering a head injury earlier this month. As of Friday, the team had still not ruled it a concussion, but given Kase’s extensive history of head injuries it hardly matters. The dynamic, but oft-injured winger will need plenty of time to return to action, allowing the team to move him to LTIR. He joins defensemen Jake Muzzin and Rasmus Sandin on the long-term shelf, bringing the Leafs’ LTIR salary pool to $7.77MM, the amount that they may exceed the salary cap as a means of replacing those players. However, Muzzin and his $5.625MM cap hit are expected to be activated sooner rather than later, which will drastically change the calculus for Toronto.
Meanwhile, Holl, Lyubushkin, and Mrazek join starting goaltender Jack Campbell as the Leafs’ other injured players. Mrazek’s injury history and inconsistency this season make his absence both relatively unsurprising and somewhat inconsequential. However, the major hit to the blue line depth cannot be ignored. While Toronto impressed in a 6-4 win over Boston on Tuesday, they can ill-afford to continue battling this injury bug. They sit just two points ahead of the Bruins and one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in the race for Atlantic playoff position and are set to face Tampa and the Florida Panthers next week.
While the veteran Hutchinson is battle-tested and ready for the challenge, he and rookie Erik Kallgren splitting the net for the Leafs is unlikely to be successful for too long. On the back end, Hollowell and Kral have no NHL experience and are an even bigger liability. Toronto is hoping that these emergency recalls are just that and their regulars will be back in action soon.