The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without their captain for at least the next three weeks, head coach Sheldon Keefe announced Tuesday.
John Tavares has suffered an oblique strain and will likely miss the rest of the Maple Leafs’ exhibition slate while recuperating from the injury.
A three-week recovery timeline would put him on track to return (at the earliest) on October 18, the day after the Maple Leafs face the Arizona Coyotes for their fourth game of the 2022–23 regular season.
Tavares, who has served as Maple Leafs captain since 2019, finished fourth on the team with 27 goals and 76 points in 79 games last season. He added three goals and six points in seven games as Toronto fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Maple Leafs signed Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million contract as the top unrestricted free agent on the market in 2018. Since then, the 6’1″ center from Mississauga has scored 119 goals and 274 points in 280 games with Toronto over four regular seasons. He has three years remaining on his contract.
The New York Islanders originally selected Tavares with the first-overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. He joined the Maple Leafs after nine highly productive seasons on Long Island to start his career.
Tavares’ absence likely spells opportunity for the likes of Denis Malgin, Zach Aston-Reese, Adam Gaudette, and Joey Anderson, all of whom are attending Maple Leafs camp either on cheap deals or professional tryouts.
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After a much needed day off, the Maple Leafs got back to work on Monday in what’s now the end of training camp and the beginning of preseason, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Toronto began this week with two groups of skaters, though each group did have some changes after the first set of games this past weekend.
New groups at Maple Leafs HQ today. Big 5 and starting goalies together. Keefe says last week was training camp. Preseason begins today. pic.twitter.com/Nwhyb3NhgB
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) September 26, 2022
Missing from the list of players are Adam Gaudette and David Kampf, who were both absent from Monday’s session. Gaudette is day-to-day with a shoulder injury and Kampf was taking a day for personal reasons, the Maple Leafs said.
Jake Muzzin took to the ice for the first time since missing the start of training camp last week. He skated with Pierre Engvall, who also is out until early October with an ankle/foot injury.
Jake Muzzin is on the ice at Leafs camp.
Back discomfort kept him out at the outset last week. pic.twitter.com/j9RJHBVpbr
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) September 26, 2022
Keefe discussed the Muzzin injury in more detail after both of Monday’s skates concluded.
Jake Muzzin skated solo today but no clarity on how his health is progressing. Keefe says "a couple little things" started bugging Muzzin leading up to camp, not related to concussions. "He was feeling good enough to go, and then not so much."
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) September 26, 2022
With a new set of groups means some brand new line combinations to look too much into. And today’s first line that got that treatment was Denis Malgin with both William Nylander and John Tavares.
Leafs lines from Group 1 practice Sept. 26/22
— David Alter (@dalter) September 26, 2022
Malgin did have an impressive game on Saturday, scoring a goal and having plenty of chemistry with both Nylander and Pontus Holmberg. It seems like now the Maple Leafs want to see if the 25-year-old fits on the second line in a full-time role.
Keefe on why Malgin looks better in second shot as a Maple Leaf:
"An extra hunger and competitiveness to get the puck back. If you're going to be an undersized skilled player that's going to have any success in the NHL, you have to have that intangible or it's really difficult."
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) September 26, 2022
Aside from that line combination, there wasn’t much from the forwards that caught my eye. What did get my attention, though, was the defence pairing of Morgan Rielly and Jordie Benn.
This is the first time we’ve seen this pairing in camp, and I wonder if it’s something Toronto is really taking a look at. With Timothy Liljegren out, Benn could make a good partner for an offensively-minded defender like Rielly.
Another first is seeing Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov together in a group. Murray is getting set to see his first game of preseason action on Wednesday when Toronto takes on the Canadiens.
Matt Murray on wearing the #Leafs jersey for the first time in a game on Wednesday.
“Yeah, it’ll be cool for sure. But I’m trying to get the most out of it and prepare for Game 1 of the season. That’s the first step towards that.”
— David Alter (@dalter) September 26, 2022
What I like about Murray is that he’s focused on getting ready for the first game of the regular season and isn’t thinking too much about putting on the Maple Leafs jersey.
Keefe also mentioned that both Murray and Samsonov will get full games after Wednesday’s matchup against Montreal.
Keefe said the plan is to give Murray, Samsonov full games in final four pre-season games after Wednesday's match vs Montreal. Samsonov to play in Belleville vs Ottawa on Friday #Leafs
— Terry Koshan (@koshtorontosun) September 26, 2022
We didn’t get much in terms of Group 2 lines on Monday, however, there were some interesting combinations throughout the skate.
Leafs hopeful Zach Aston-Reese is skating on a line with Alex Kerfoot and Calle Jarnkrok today.
Also notable: Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie teamed up on D.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) September 26, 2022
I’ll start by saying a line of Zach Aston-Reese, Alex Kerfoot, and Calle Jarnkrok could be a sneaky two-way line. All three players are great defensively and have the potential to be offensive standouts. This might be one of the more fascinating line combos coming from Maple Leafs’ camp.
Having Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie as partners is quite intriguing, too, since they did play aside each other in Calgary for some time. They could have the potential to be a shutdown pairing throughout the year, if ever placed together during the regular season or playoffs.
Both are incredibly smart with and without the puck, plus they have the experience of playing alongside each other. I’d love to see this pairing go to work at some point during the preseason.
More from TheLeafsNation.com:
- Some way too early training camp analysis: Leaflets by Jon Steitzer
PointsBet is live in Ontario. Get started here.
After a disappointing 4-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers the Winnipeg Jets are looking to rebound and pick up their first preseason win. The game started on the wrong foot for the Jets after getting scored on less than a minute into the game when Logan Stanley would butcher a pass out of the defensive zone and the Oilers would capitalize. It was a sloppy preseason game where both the Jets and Oilers had lots of chances. The Oilers would open a melee of goals in the third as they would score three in less than 5 minutes. In all honesty, I think I would put one of the four goals on David Rittich. The rest of the goals can fall on the younger inexperienced players of the Jets. The Ottawa Senators played a double header against the Toronto Maple Leafs; on Sunday the 25th they would lose 4-1 in game one and win 4-2 in game two.
Just a few notes for this game
- The first home game of the preseason goes tonight at the Canada Life Centre. Game time is at 7pm. You can also watch the game on TSN3 or listen live on 680 CJOB and Power 97.
- Oskari Salminen will get the start in net for the Jets with Connor Hellebuyck backing him up. Salminen would last play in the second young stars game against the Vancouver Canucks where he would stop 28 of 32 in that game. Salminen just signed a two-year contract with the Jets in May. He was playing in Liiga in Finland and is still getting used to the North American style of hockey. No word if Rick Bowness is going to split the time between Hellebuyck and Salminen or if Salminen is going to get in on the full 60 minutes.
- At the time of writing this article, the Senators have not announced who will be starting in net for their club tonight.
- Jets are going with a totally new defensive group in this game. Tonight we will see Neal Pionk, Simon Lundmark, Brenden Dillon, Josh Morrissey, Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg.
- Cole Perfetti will be one of four Jets who played Sunday night against the Oilers who will be playing in tonight’s game. The other three were Saku Maenalanen, Dominic Toninato, and Mikey Eyssimont.
- Someone to watch tonight is Alex Limoges. Last year with the San Diego Gulls he would set a rookie franchise record of 23 goals. He might start his young Jets career on the right foot and pot a goal or two depending who he is playing with.
PRE-SEASON GAME ROSTER: Sept. 27 vs. Ottawa Senators pic.twitter.com/9a9Ev6crL7
— Winnipeg Jets PR (@WpgJetsPR) September 26, 2022
- With the Jets at home we will see more veteran players play than the Senators.
- If you’ve been searching throughout the internet for the Senators roster click right here
- Points Bet has the Jets at -221 to win.
Training camp is officially underway, the Flames have played two preseason games, and some early storylines are starting to emerge. It’s still very early in camp, which leaves plenty of room for evolution, but here are a few trends I’ve picked up on.
The top line has been in the works for some time
One question I had coming into this year’s camp was if we’d see newcomer Jonathan Huberdeau on a line with Elias Lindholm right from the start. The answer was a clear yes starting from day one. Huberdeau, Lindholm, and Tyler Toffoli have consistently practiced together so far and remained a trio during Saturday’s intra-squad game and Sunday’s preseason opener. According to Huberdeau, this had been the plan for weeks leading into camp.
“During the summer (head coach Darryl Sutter) kind of told me that was going to be my two linemates for the start of the camp,” Huberdeau revealed last week. “We’ll see…we’re probably going to have a chance to play a game or two.
“It’s going to be good. I don’t think I’ve ever played with two righties, so it’s cool to have that. We’re going to build chemistry throughout the camp, so I’m excited to play with those guys.”
Line combinations tend to change as camp progresses, and we might see both of Huberdeau and Toffoli tested with other centres between now and the start of the season. But these three were put together to start for a reason and no one should be surprised if they line up as a unit on October 13th vs. Colorado.
There’s a defined a role for Sonny Milano
Milano told us last week he chose the Flames on a PTO over other similar offers for two reasons: the opportunity that exists and the skilled players around him. That opportunity seems very clear-cut, both based on what we’ve seen early on and what general manager Brad Treliving told me last week.
“To me he fits in a spot in your top nine,” Treliving said. “Wing depth, scoring wing depth, to me is an area that we have to continue to look at. Is he a guy that can help that? And is there a fit for him? I know there’s a handful of (internal) guys there that think they want to grab ahold of that. That’s where Sonny fits.”
Now it’s on Milano to prove Calgary right. Wisely, the Flames are giving him the tools to make the most of this opportunity, as he’s been on a line with Nazem Kadri at practice thus far. I believe Calgary wants to sign Milano, which means he’s likely going to see a lot of preseason action in a top nine role. The more evaluation the better, especially knowing how tight the Flames are to the cap once again.
There’s a door open on defence
Oliver Kylington is dealing with something in his personal life and deserves all the time and privacy he needs to work through it. The most important thing is Oliver’s well-being and the Flames will welcome him back when he’s ready. There’s no timeline on a return and the team is operating as if a return isn’t imminent.
From a hockey perspective, it leads to an interesting conversation on the back end. The team’s top four is defined, comprising some combination of Rasmus Andersson, Noah Hanifin, MacKenzie Weegar, and Chris Tanev. For now, that leaves Nikita Zadorov as Calgary’s number five and an interesting conversation to fill out one or two more spots.
Currently, it feels like the Flames have numerous options in the mix to fill out the number six and seven spots. Juuso Valimaki has looked solid at times early on while Mackey strong in Saturday’s preseason opener. Both prospects are eligible for waivers for the first time, which adds an interesting wrinkle to Calgary’s decision.
Notably, free agent signing Nicolas Meloche has been consistently paired with Zadorov throughout camp and is definitely in the conversation. The Flames signed him to a one-way deal in July, so it’s clear they see Meloche as more than AHL depth. Both he and Michael Stone, at camp on a PTO, have right shots, which doesn’t hurt the case for either.
In Kylington’s absence, the competition between Meloche, Stone, Valimaki, and Mackey for two spots is going to be fun to watch. And, more than anything, we send nothing but good vibes and wishes to Oliver.
Bringing back Brett Ritchie was a good move
While I know many in our online community disagree, I firmly believe bringing Ritchie back for a third year was a low key solid move. At first rumoured to be joining Edmonton on a PTO, Ritchie signed a one-year deal with the Flames right before camp at $750,000. As a result, Calgary is returning who I believe was their most effective fourth line option from last season.
While playing fewer games than Lucic and Lewis, the two returning Flames consistently in a fourth line role last year, Ritchie was the more effective player. Yes, his counting numbers were low, but positive things consistently happened with Ritchie on the ice. Good teams have solid, reliable, predictable players on the fourth line and Ritchie fit that bill.
If Ritchie can do it again, Calgary will have a nice option as their 12th or 13th forward.
The Vancouver Canucks have reduced their training camp roster by eight players, the club announced Monday.
The Canucks now have 51 players (29 forwards, 17 defencemen, five goaltenders) remaining at training camp.
General Manager Patrik Allvin announced today that the Canucks have reduced their pre-season roster by eight players.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) September 26, 2022
The following players have been cut from Canucks training camp:
- F Yushiroh Hirano
- F Cole Shepard
- F Connor Lockhart
- D Chad Nychuk
- D Matt Anderson
- D Dylan MacPherson
- D Kirill Kudryavtsev
- G Ty Young
Hirano and Nychuk will both join the Abbotsford Canucks after attending Vancouver camp on tryouts.
Shepard, Anderson, and MacPherson also attended Vancouver camp on tryout agreements and have been released with the freedom to pursue other opportunities.
Lockhart, Kudryavtsev, and Young are all recent Canucks draft picks who attended camp largely for the purpose of gaining experience and familiarity with the organization. They will now return to their respective Canadian Hockey League clubs for the upcoming season.
Hirano, 27, captured the hearts of many Canucks fans last season after joining Abbotsford midway through the year. The big winger became the first Japanese-trained player to score in the AHL and finished the season with five goals and 12 points in 30 games, parlaying his performance into another contract with Abbotsford and an invite to an NHL training camp.
Nychuk and Hirano should both be in attendance when Abbotsford Canucks training camp begins in Port Coquitlam on October 5.
The Detroit Red Wings only have two goaltenders signed to National Hockey League contracts for the 2022–23 season: Alex Nedeljkovic and Sebastian Cossa.
Currently representing Sweden at the 2022 IIHF World Championship in Finland, Magnus Hellberg is making an excellent case to become the third.
Hellberg, 31, has established himself as the starting goaltender for Team Sweden at the 2022 Worlds. He’s been outstanding, winning all four of his starts thus far and posting a sparkling .932 save percentage.
Even with Boston Bruins goaltender @Linus Ullmark now at their disposal for the rest of the tournament, Team Sweden elected to go back to Hellberg for its game against Team Norway on Sunday.
Hellberg stopped all but one of the 20 shots he faced as the Swedes emerged victorious by a 7–1 score. Sweden currently ranks second in Group B with four regulation wins, one overtime win, and one overtime loss through six games.
William Nylander wasted no time in contributing to Sweden's winning ways in Sunday night’s 7-1 victory over Norway.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 22, 2022
Even beyond his World Championship dominance, Hellberg is a worthy candidate to share the Red Wings’ crease with Nedeljkovic next season.
For one, he already knows the organization. Hellberg joined the Red Wings with around three weeks remaining in the 2021–22 season, getting plenty of reps in with the team’s staff and even making a start in the season finale.
“I came here pretty late in the season, wanted to show what I can do. It’s a great group of guys in there, they welcomed me really well from the start,” Hellberg said at the time. “I’ve been here a couple weeks now, I got to see the facilities, the staff around the team, the guys.
“I think Detroit has a really bright future and of course it would be a place I would like to be a part of in the future,” Hellberg added. “I’ve had a blast these last couple weeks I’ve been here.”
Hellberg spent five seasons in North America after being drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2011 before leaving for the Kontinental Hockey League in 2017.
He established himself as a top-end KHL goalie with Kunlun Red Star, SKA St. Petersburg, and (most recently) HC Sochi during his five seasons in the league.
Hellberg posted a 13–20–4 record and a .917 save percentage in 37 games with HC Sochi — one of the KHL’s worst teams — in 2021–22. The Uppsala, Sweden product also suited up for a pair of games with Team Sweden at the 2022 Winter Olympics men’s ice hockey tournament, going 1–1–0 with a .927 save percentage.
If the Red Wings re-sign Hellberg, he probably won’t cost a whole lot. The 6’5″, 209-lb. netminder only has five NHL games under his belt. While he wouldn’t be a bad bet for the Red Wings to make, he’d also be far from a sure bet.
That being said, the Red Wings are in serious need of help at the goaltending position. Cossa is still a few years away, and Nedeljkovic can’t do it all by himself. Even if Victor Brattstrom sticks around in Grand Rapids, the Red Wings will need to sign at least two more goaltenders to fill out their organization.
Magnus Hellberg has earned an extended look in the Red Wings organization. He’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July, but the Red Wings should try their best to retain his services.
- Red Wings sign defenseman Steven Kampfer to one-year contract
- Hellberg remains strong for Sweden in shootout win over Finland at 2022 Worlds
- Is Dylan Larkin a top-10 center in the National Hockey League?
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