Toronto Maple Leafs Defenseman John Klingberg will miss the rest of the 2023-24 NHL season to undergo hip surgery at the end of the month, Leafs GM Brad Treliving today announced.
Klingberg, 31, re-aggravated a prior hip injury that now requires surgery, and he is done for the year. Signed to a one-year contract, this likely spells the end of Klingberg’s tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, assuming that he does not return for the playoffs.
In 14 Games with the Leafs, Klingberg totaled 5 points, and whether he was playing injured or not from day one, he was a liability the entire time.
If the hip issue was a lingering problem to start the year, it would explain the difficulties Klingberg had.
Toronto Maple Leafs Get $4 Million Cap Bonus: Klingberg to LTIR
On a positive note, the move does free up $4.15M for the Toronto Maple Leafs to spend on another target.
The Leafs have been linked to Calgary Flames defenseman Chris Tanev, who was rumored to be talked about in a potential trade alongside fellow Flames D Nikita Zadorov, before the latter was shipped off to Vancouver.
Brad Treliving has familiarity with Tanev, having been his GM with the Calgary Flames. Other names such as Sean Walker of Philadelphia, and Ilya Lyubushkin of Anaheim, a former Leaf. Another intriguing name to fill the Leafs need could be Alexandre Carrier of the Nashville Predators.
It doesn’t mean Klingberg couldn’t come back to Toronto for next season, but likely at significantly less than $4.15M. Negotiations are far away, and there’s no indication any contract extensions have even begun. The Leafs could be willing to give Klingberg a second chance at the right price if he’s healthy.
For now, their focus looks to be on adding for the time being, and defense is a sore need. Timothy Liljegren, also on LTIR, has an unclear timeline for a potential return to the Leafs roster, and the depth is being stretched out, William Lagesson & Max Lajoie have been called up from the Marlies.
Simon Benoit, signed to be a 6/7th D, is slowly creeping to 15 minutes a night. One more injury and it may not be soon before long that the Leafs will have to look at prospects such as Topi Niemela and Mikko Kokkonen as insurance if they don’t swing a deal soon. With the added cap space, the Leafs now have the capacity to do so, but it will likely come at a decent cost.
Regardless, the Leafs have already been active in trade discussions as reports have shown, and understand the pressing need to add to their defensive core.
With an extra $4.15M to spend on a new defenseman, the Leafs cannot afford to get things wrong, and need a reliable defenseman who is able to show up in big games, and preferably a defensive-minded option at that.
Whatever route Toronto goes on, defense is key, and having already missed out on Zadorov, Toronto may need to act fast before potential further injury issues drive up the price and make the need far more dire.