Be it from a sunny vacation spot or Sochi, member of the Toronto Maple Leafs migrated back home this week to resume their 2013-14 campaign. Just holding onto a playoff spot as the race to the post-season begins heating up, the Leafs returned with 22 games remaining to prove themselves a playoff team.
Randy Carlyle promised a “training camp”-like atmosphere when the players returned from break, roster spots were to be up for grabs and the returns of injured players meant that movements would have to be made for the Leafs to be cap-compliant. Peter Holland was was the first to be demoted, he will take a first line spot with the Marlies while opening up some of the space needed for Dave Bolland and Trevor Smith to return from injured reserve. Smith has been taken off injured reserve though Bolland has not, meaning his cap hit is not yet affecting the Leafs. As they currently stand the Leafs have to clear $859,167 more in space to accommodate Bolland. Colton Orr seems to be one of the most likely candidates for relegation, his cap hit at $925,000 will clear more than enough space. Should Dave Nonis wish to go another route, sending down any two of Carter Ashton, Troy Bodie, Frazer McLaren, and Smith will also balance the books.
- Ashton missed three practices with a hand injury, he underwent a bone scan though the severity has not yet been made public.
- Orr “tweaked” something in the first practice and has missed all subsequent ones.
- Bolland suffered a setback and did not return against the Islanders as originally expected, he is doubtful for the game against Montreal on March 1.
- James van Riemsdyk suffered a hand injury during the Olympics, though he missed practices during the week he did play against New York.
Trades and rumors:
- Nonis stated to the media that he does not envision the Leafs making any major transactions at the deadline.
- Nick Kypreos reported that Bolland is asking for a 7-8 year, $4-5 million dollar contract to stay with the Leafs. This has amplified trade speculation around the soon to be free agent as the March 5th deadline is fast approaching.
- Mason Raymond and Nikolai Kulemin are both being frequently mentioned as potential deadline targets in the Toronto media, though neither is said to be being “shopped” so these rumors should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
The Leafs took on the Tavares-less Islanders last night in their first game back from the break. Phil Kessel opened the scoring in the first period but ugly giveaways from Jonathan Bernier and Jake Gardiner allowed Michael Grabner to score two shorthanded goals on the same Leafs powerplay, giving New York the lead after 1. After a scoreless second period Paul Ranger tied things up for the Leafs, this was quickly followed by a textbook one timer slapshot from Dion Phaneuf to take the lead. It wouldn’t last long though as Anders Lee was left wide open in front of the net for his first goal of the season. Neither team was done yet though as both scored once more in the final 6:06 of regulation, sending the game to overtime at 4-4. In the extra period James van Riemsdyk coughed up the puck in front of the net, Lubomir Visnovsky took advantage of the error and scored his third goal of the season unassisted.
The Leafs play again tomorrow night, this time in Montreal for a game against the Canadiens. Peter Budaj and Jonathan Bernier will start in goal for the teams.