The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away, cap space is tight around the league and competing teams will do whatever they can to make room on the payroll for the upgrades.
At least that’s what they should make. During Wednesday’s Daily Faceoff Show’s Garbage Time segment, Frank Seravalli wondered why the Leafs weren’t making LTIR lemonade out of lemons with defenseman Jake Muzzin’s injury.
Frank Seravalli: My big question is, are the Toronto Maple Leafs making a mistake with Jake Muzzin and his rehab? You saw the cameras capture Muzzin skating alone at the Maple Leafs practice facility on Tuesday, and it looks like the comeback or prognosis — that’s unclear with the head injuries — is likely in about a year. month. That means a few weeks after the trade deadline with about three weeks of buffer time or playing time before the end of the regular season. But if that’s the case, then the Toronto Maple Leafs need to factor Muzzin into their salary cap and can’t put him on LTIR to really make a splash at the NHL’s trade deadline.
We talked about the issues the Maple Leafs are having not just in goal, but looking for a second-pairing defenseman, not just to help Muzzin or, because he played so hesitantly with back-to-back concussions, to replace Muzzin if he’s hurt. They also have a hole in the front. They need help on the wing. That’s really a lot of needs to tackle without any salary cap space.
I appreciate the Leafs’ need to play by the rules. I appreciate their interest in Jake Muzzin and his health and their desire to get him healthy before the Stanley Cup playoffs. But for me: everyone does it. The Vegas Golden Knights do it with Mark Stone and his injury. The Tampa Bay Lightning did it with Nikita Kucherov. Park Jake Muzzin on the bench. Park it from your salary cap on LTIR. Make the important upgrades your team needs. Give them the best chance possible when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs to improve this roster. Use his $5.6 million to get out there and get the help you need by the deadline. And then bring back the guy who has playoff experience, the Stanley Cup winner. Do you think he really needs those two or three weeks before the deadline to be successful, or can he just make it back to the playoffs? It’s not like he hasn’t played all season.
Look, I understand this is a tricky situation. I just wonder if they are making the wrong choice by playing this according to the book.
Tyler Yaremchuk: And especially with head injuries and a guy who’s had a few. It might be bold to park him on LTIR even though he’s cleared back, but also, if there was ever a situation where you could keep a guy out longer than he needs to, a head injury is exactly when you do that. So that’s a great argument on your part.
Frank Seravalli: Not only that, but what if he plans to come back, say in a month, April 10, and then gets to that point and says, « I’m just not ready » and ends up being absent until the playoffs because head injuries are so unpredictable? So you shot yourself in the foot. You didn’t have the ability to spend that money, use that cap space to improve your team.
It is a difficult situation from all points of view. I feel for the Leafs and where they are. At the moment they plan on not having that money, but that means they can’t really improve without sending someone.