Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake McCabe Goes Down, Roster Decision Looming

Oct 5, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake McCabe (22) pursues the play against the Detroit Red Wings in the second period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 5, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake McCabe (22) pursues the play against the Detroit Red Wings in the second period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Very early into the Toronto Maple Leafs game on Thursday night they were forced to play with five defenseman after Jake McCabe went down with a lower body injury.

After just ten seconds of ice time, the Toronto Maple Leafs defender left the game with what looked like a hip injury.

The five other defenseman were able to step up and combine to help lead the team to a 4-1 victory with Morgan Rielly leading the way with 26-minutes of ice time that resulted in a goal and an assist.

At the time of the writing the extent of the injury to McCabe is unknown, but with the Maple Leafs still on the road and back on the ice in less than 48 hours you have to wonder if not expect that they will need reinforcements for the back end.

Note: Immidetely after publishing this, the Leafs demoted Fraser Minten and recalled defenseman William Lagesson.

The two main options for the Maple Leafs to call-up from the Toronto Marlies were either Simon Benoit or William Lagesson.  Benoit has more experience with 137 NHL games to his credit which includes the 78 he played last year for the Anaheim Ducks, however he has not suited up for a game since preseason.

Unlike Benoit, Lagesson has played in five games with the Marlies already this month and may be more game ready to go if the club is looking for a quick filler.  The 27-year old does have 60 NHL games to his credit, however played the entirety of the 2022-23 season in the American Hockey League.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake McCabe Goes Down, Lagesson Recalled

Unless McCabe is going to hit the long term injured reserve list (LTIR), one of the forwards is going to have to be removed from the roster to create cap sapce to bring a Marlies defenseman up, as the team is currently carrying 13 forwards and six defenseman.

After watching the first seven games of the season, the easiest decision would be remove the weakest player on the team which has been Ryan Reaves.  The veteran enforcer has been barely better than a pylon to start the season, however, it is unlikely that management will want to wave the white flag just weeks into his first season of a three-year deal.

This leaves two likely candidates to get moved off the roster and neither are deserving.  The simplest would be Pontus Holmberg who has looked respectable in the three games since being recalled, especially considering that he has been saddled with having Reaves on his right side.  In fact, to my eye, Holmberg has looked better than David Kämpf.

Holmberg does not require waivers to be sent down and could be recalled as soon as McCabe is healthy to resume game action.

The second decision would be a little tougher and may force management to do something they did expect to do a for few more weeks down and that is send Fraser Minten back to junior.

Minten has played quite well considering he is a 19-year old that was not expected to make the team for a couple of years.  However, he has been a healthy scratch the last three games, which leaves some to speculate he is with the team for the road trip and then was likely going back to Kamloops.

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In the post game interview, Sheldon Keefe stated that there was concern that McCabe would not be ready to play Saturday night.