It just a matter of days, the Toronto Maple Leafs had two members of their defensive corps sustaining injuries.
But the news for Conor Timmins was less optimistic, as he was injured late in Friday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens on a hit and will be out for a longer period of time with an injury.
At the time, Timmins appeared to have the upper hand in nailing down the seventh spot on the Toronto Maple Leafs defensive corps.
So now with one regular starter in Klingberg out, along with their potential seventh defenseman, what would be the options for the Leafs to fill the void?
The other starting five is pretty much set in stone with Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Jake McCabe and Timothy Liljegren.
How Will the Toronto Maple Leafs React to Latest Injury News?
So the candidates will come down to a mixture of veteran NHL defenseman with experience and promising rookies within the organization.
In terms of experienced defenseman, the Leafs have two candidates in Simon Benoit and William Lagesson. Benoit was signed by the Leafs to a one-year deal back in August after he spent the past three seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. At 6 foot 3 and 203 pounds, he would provide a much-needed physical presence that the Leafs severely lack right now, as he led the Ducks last season in hits with 216.
Only problem? He might not be an NHL quality player.
For Lagesson, the Leafs signed him to a one-year deal on the first day of free agency. At the time, he was to serve as a depth defenseman for the organization, as he had only seen limited NHL action with the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens in the past few seasons. Last year, he played primarily in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves.
In terms of rookies, both Leafs top defensive prospect Topi Niemela and prospect William Villeneuve were returned to the AHL after Monday’s cuts. Mikko Kokkonen is still in camp and could potentially also now win a job, though he is less likely.
Niemela had a strong 2021-22 season with Karpat in the Finnish League, and although he had a slightly down season in 2022-23, he still figures to be among the Leafs top prospects as he moves to North America for this season.(All stats from hockey-reference.com)
For Villeneuve, he has had valuable AHL experience already with the Toronto Marlies in the past year, scoring 25 points in 54 games and looks to be moving on up this season.
If Klingberg isn’t ready for Opening Night, Benoit is likely the safest candidate, but he lacks upside, and so the Leafs may choose to give one of their prospects a shot. Additionally, there is the option of a trade.