The already banged-up Maple Leafs look like they will be without their captain to begin the regular season.
The club announced today that John Tavares will miss a minimum of three weeks with an oblique strain. The injury, according to Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe, occurred during the first game of last Saturday’s doubleheader against the Ottawa Senators.
Per coach Sheldon Keefe, John Tavares out at least three weeks with an oblique strain … sustained during Saturday’s game
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 27, 2022
That three-week timeline puts Tavares in place to return roughly around October 17th. That would leave him missing at least the Maple Leafs' first three regular season games, including their home opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 13.
Tavares’ absence is set to create a multitude of potential problems for the Maple Leafs. Already missing other regulars including Pierre Engvall (foot) and Timothy Liljegren (hernia), it is increasingly likely that the Maple Leafs' opening night lineup will be heavily depleted.
Others potentially set to be pencilled in for opening night including Jake Muzzin (back) and Adam Gaudette (shoulder) are also dealing with issues, though both are listed as day-to-day and expected to be ready for game one of the season.
Most importantly, the 32-year-old's injury leaves a significant hole in the Maple Leafs top-six group. While Keefe has stated that options like , a top-six featuring either of those candidates down the middle for any significant stretch is a considerable downgrade.
Salary cap considerations and cap compliance could also come into play with Tavares' injury, particularly as it pertains to the Maple Leafs signing their final restricted free agent Rasmus Sandin.
If Tavares is unable to go for opening night, but not banged up enough to be placed on LTIR, the Maple Leafs may wind up scrambling for space to sign their promising Swedish defenseman. The club would be unable to take advantage of any LTIR cap relief on Tavares' $11m AAV while potentially dealing with a prorated (and more pricey) AAV for Sandin should negotiations linger on.
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