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John Klingberg to LTIR gives Toronto Maple Leafs new possibilities
By James Reeve3 months ago
In a move that has surprised very few people, the Toronto Maple Leafs have place defenceman John Klingberg on LTIR, opening up plenty of new opportunities for the team to explore.
The 31-year-old Swede had struggled so far this season with the Leafs, with the usually offensive-focused blueliner only managing five assists through 14 appearances, never truly looking like his old self at either end of the ice.
He missed time recently due to injury and was even absent throughout the team’s trip back to his home nation, which sparked plenty of questions and debate over what would happen with him. It was spoken about in press conferences that he was struggling with his injury, which was not recovering as well as he had hoped, opening the door for his LTIR placement yesterday.
Per Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, there is speculation around Klingberg’s long-term future, with some suggestions that the injury he has could keep him out for the rest of the season, especially with the possibility of surgery, meaning the Leafs will need to look at their roster and explore some of the new opportunities that this disappointing situation now presents to them.
It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs are up against the salary cap, needing LTIR from the likes of Jake Muzzin and Matt Murray to accommodate some of the newer additions made to the team this summer.
Even with the new additions, the lack of cap space has regularly seen the Leafs play with only 20 players on the roster, with other LTIR designations for the likes of Jake McCabe and Timothy Liljegren allowing them to rotate some players from the Toronto Marlies into the line-up to fill the gaps.
With Klingberg’s designation, it opens up even further flexibility for the team to rotate players on the fringes of the NHL, giving them greater flexibility with their game day rosters.
The likes of Nicholas Robertson, Alex Steeves, Simon Benoit and William Lagesson could become regular features for the team if they opt to play with a full 23-man roster moving forward. With $3.4 million in space, it would let Sheldon Keefe rotate players in more often, resting some and helping to manage potential injuries and fatigue throughout a long season.
Keeping some of the team’s stars fresh, or even giving some players a break to reset mentally and physically, can boost morale and even help the Leafs be better prepared for the post-season stretch once the trade deadline has passed. This approached helped the Toronto Raptors to the NBA Championship in 2019, when star Kawhi Leonard had his playing load managed effectively, giving the team the best chance possible of succeeding.
Naturally, having more than $3 million of cap space will also reignite (or continue to fan the flames of) trade debates and discussions around the Leafs, who are continually linked with the likes of Calgary Flames defencemen Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev.
Having a few million available to them does allow more maneuverability in the trade market, where the Leafs could add a player of some significance compared to simply filling out the bottom end of the roster with players on league-minimum deals or sub-$1 million buriable contracts.
Losing Liljegren and Klingberg leaves the Leafs’ defensive group thin, although Lagesson has looked particularly impressive when he has been called up so far this year, and this is the most logical position that the team could attempt to improve via a trade.
Of course, there will be debates over the type of defenceman that Leafs could try to target, with big-bodied bruisers, smooth puck handlers and the defensively sound options all potential considerations, but it should realistically be the latter option that the team looks to address.
Offensively, the Leafs are solid and appear to have figure out their top nine forwards group since their Sweden trip, while at the back end the team continues to allow too many goals and need to tighten up if they hope to challenge for a top three place in the Atlantic Division.
Whether the team looks to take advantage of their greater roster flexibility or make a deal with another team to shake things up, having Klingberg hit LTIR gives them the freedom to make that choice where they had no real alternative beforehand.
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