The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without the services of defenseman Zach Bogosian for at least four weeks, after an MRI revealed the extent of his shoulder injury,
Bogosian fell awkwardly into the boards in the second period of the team's 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
Bogosian was a regular fixture on the team's third line.
Signed by the Maple Leafs to a one-year, $1 million contract by the Leafs in October, the veteran had four assists in 45 games this season.
Coming off a Stanley Cup Championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning last fall, the 30-year-old was brought along with other veterans to be part of the team's evolving leadership group.
He played exclusively on the third pair for all 45 games this season and killed penalties. He mostly skated with Travis Dermott as his partner. Mikko Lehtonen (since traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets) and Rasmus Sandin also skated with Bogosian this season.
"Zach's played really well for us and I think he delivered on what we wanted him to provide in terms of stability in our third pair," Keefe said of Bogosian. "So certainly we're going to feel that absence."
The Leafs rolled with Sandin on the left side for the last two games. Dermott skated on the right side of Sandin during the team's 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
After struggling to get into the Leafs' lineup for much of the season, Sandin got one game in before a foot injury in the Marlies first game in February forced the defenseman to miss some time.
Sandin returned on Tuesday and skated with Bogosian. He admitted some rust in the game and the door has blown wide open for the Swedish defenseman to get regular reps.
Sandin has had a lot of down time between games due to injury and the pandemic before that time. He feels he's maximized his down time.
"I feel stronger overall, Sandin said. "I think I have more pop overall in my legs."
Ben Hutton, acquired from the Anaheim Ducks for a fifth-round draft pick on Trade Deadline Day, will also be an option for the Leafs.
Timothy Liljegren has been up with the team on the taxi squad, but is a long shot to see action due to current cap constraints.
Additional LTIR relief
Given the timeframe of Bogosian's injury, the Leafs will certainly place the defenseman on long-term injured reserve. That will add an additional $1 million in LTIR relief, giving the Leafs approximately $2.9 million in space, according to Puckpedia.com.
This above is significant if the Leafs have any plans on activating goaltender Frederik Andersen and his $5 million contract before the end of the regular season.
Zach Hyman is still on a two-week timeline to return before the end of the season. The forward sustained a MCL sprain on Saturday in the Leafs' 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks. If Hyman's recovery slows and Hyman's $2.25 million contract gets placed retroactively on LTIR, the combined contracts of Hyman and Bogosian would be enough to permit Andersen's return to the active roster. This, of course, is only if Andersen is indeed ready to return. The pending UFA has not taken part in a full practice session with the Leafs since he last played a game on Mar. 19.
Nick Foligno's debut with the Leafs on Thursday has been well received and Sandin let it be known that the veteran forward made a speech to his new teammates before the team's win against the Jets on Thursday.
"Before the game, he made a speech of how excited he was to be a Leaf," Sandin said. "That the kind of players we want on this team. It's a privilege to for all of us to get a guy on our team like that."
Foligno played on the team's first line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. He also skated on the penalty kill with Marner.
The Winnipeg Jets lost Adam Lowry in the game after a hit from Alex Galchenyuk. Joe Thornton was fined for hitting Mathieu Perreault. The Jets media contingent asked Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice if the Leafs were a dirty team.
"I don't think so, Maurice said. "The league has said they're not so we'll abide by the league's rules."
Wayne Simmonds, who scored his first goal in eight games on Thursday, took exception to his team being characterized as 'dirty'.
"Every time we've played them they've tried to come out and run us out of the building to start games," Simmonds said. "So now we come back and we're physical and we're the dirty team? I don't buy it."
Brooks making the most of his chance
Adam Brooks hasn't had a lot of opportunities to play this season, but he's managed to make the most of it. He scored two goals in his first three games in 2021. His first one was on the power play and his second one came shorthanded.
On Thursday he nearly scored his third goal but elected to pass instead of shoot and the scoring chance turned into a missed opportunity.
Brooks found himself skating on a line with veterans Thornton and Jason Spezza on Thursday and based on the Leafs' practice lines that will likely continue.
"I thought last night was his best (game), "Keefe said of Brooks. "I trusted him in his line, really to play anybody, just because of how they were playing.
"Against a team like Winnipeg, to have that faith, that's significant."