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Chris Johnston says John Klingberg is facing an uncertain future due to a nagging injury

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Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
3 months ago
John Klingberg’s struggles since joining the Leafs have been well-documented.
He was brought in to provide some additional offence on the backend but his defensive shortcomings have overshadowed any positive impacts he may have provided. Granted, these issues were apparent well before Klingberg’s time in Toronto and he is far from who he was at his peak, but they have been amplified thus far in Toronto and have resulted in him being more of a hindrance than a useful option.
Now, he is dealing with health issues that have limited him to just one game over the past two weeks, failing to make an appearance during the Leafs’ trip to Sweden. Questions quickly emerged about where things stand for his long-term future with the team given that he was absent from media appearances while overseas and with reports suggesting they are in the market to shore up their defence by targeting guys like Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev. During the trip, Sheldon Keefe revealed that Klingberg was dealing with a nagging ailment that could keep him out of commission for a while but did not specify how severe it was.
With the dust settled on the overseas games, Elliotte Friedman is reporting that some clarity on what has been happening with Klingberg will soon be revealed.
Chris Johnston also provided some insight into the situation when he said the following during his appearance on the latest episode of Leafs Report:
“The John Klingberg situation is tough. He has tried to play through his injury, it’s not to say he won’t continue to but obviously the results haven’t been good. He can’t move as well on the ice as he once did when he had his best seasons, he doesn’t have a lot of security in terms of just being on a one-year deal with Toronto. Apparently his issues were made even worse by being on a couple of long flights heading over to Sweden and back. So I don’t know where that one ends up. I think you have a player there that is very proud, he gave an emotional scrum while we were in Stockholm just talking about how he just so badly wants to play again and get to a spot where he can do that. I don’t know if he is going to be able to, to me that is the big question and depending if he can or can’t then I think the decision flows from there. If can’t, he is probably going to be on long-term injured reserve and might free up some cap space for the Leafs to look into some other things.”
To put it simply, Klingberg has been playing through an injury throughout the season and it started bugging him more after they arrived in Sweden. There is some skepticism of his ability to power through it so there is a scenario where he is forced to go on LTIR.
As mentioned earlier, the Leafs are in the hunt for a defenceman and discussions around Zadorov are reportedly ramping up now that they have returned to North America. The health status of Klingberg seems to be directly connected to this ongoing scouring of the trade market and that will be further amplified if he has to be out of commission for a while. It may have made sense to package him off to bring back the desired blueliner, but things now seem to be trending toward Klingberg having to go on LTIR to open up the space needed to bring in a new face.
If this were to be the case, it would open up a little over $4.2 million in cap space. They would obviously have to juggle the impending returns of Conor Timmins and Timothy Liljegren since they will cut into over half of that at a combined $2.5 million. Having said that, they can still create the room needed to fit in someone like Zadorov by waiving Ryan Reaves and moving a roster player with a significant salary they deem to be expendable.
Putting Klingberg on LTIR certainly will not suddenly grant them the ability to spend big but gives more confirmation that a trade will be needed to get the Leafs into a better state for their defence.
Klingberg has played in 14 games so far this season and has amassed five assists in that span. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the campaign.
Stats from Hockey-Reference.com. Salary information from CapFriendly.

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