When Morgan Rielly and John Tavares suggested the Maple Leafs are ready for the regular season to begin, their final preseason game, a 4-1 win over Ottawa on Saturday night, came at a price.
It seems winger Ilya Mikheyev will be missing for some time after a hand injury in a fall in the first period.
“We’ll know more on Monday, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be in the short term,” coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “It is a great loss and he has had a great camp. He is a great player for us ”.
Two seasons ago, Mikheyev suffered tendon tears and required surgery on his right wrist.
On Saturday, Mikheyev did not finish the game after falling awkwardly to the ice following an unsolicited cross check from Ottawa defender Dillon Heatherington across the boards.
“I really hope it’s nothing big,” Tavares said of Mikheyev. “I know how determined you are to… continue to grow your game and make a bigger impact. We love his attitude, his work ethic, the kind of person he is. He’s getting more and more comfortable in his own skin here. “
Tavares, Rielly, Nick Ritchie and Pierre Engvall all scored as Toronto finished the preseason with a 5-1-0 record in games exclusively against Ottawa and Montreal. Goalkeeper Jack Campbell took the victory.
“We are ready to rock out,” Rielly said. “It’s time to put it behind us and start playing for real.”
It was a game where fans saw a sneak peek of a Leafs roster that was a healthy Auston Matthews away from reality.
Outside of David Kämpf centering Mitch Marner and Ritchie, and Jason Spezza centering the fourth row, Keefe sounded before the game as if this was the team he would go with when the puck fell for real Wednesday night against Montreal.
But Mikheyev’s injury mixed the lines and now it could have an effect on the places on the list. He had been assigned to a second-line role, which could now end up going to Michael Bunting.
The Leafs have until 5 p.m. Monday to be below the $ 81.5 million cap. So who sat down on Saturday may have been more revealing than who played. Defender Timothy Liljegren and forwards Kirill Semyonov, Adam Brooks and Michael Amadio were healthy scratches.
While teams have 23 on the roster, the Leafs can only fit 21 under the restrictive cap, although Mikheyev’s injury could change the equation. If he is placed on long-term injured reserve, which means he will miss at least 10 games and 24 days, his maximum cap of $ 1.645 million could save a job or two for now.
“Some decisions, frankly, are controlled by the salary cap,” Keefe said. “But the situation now changes, depending on what happens to Mikheyev’s situation.”
Giving up a veteran player to move carries a risk.
“That is part of our reality,” Keefe said. “We are not the only NHL team that is dealing with it. There are a lot of things that happen like this that are a bit out of your control, certainly out of my control, and we have to deal with that. “
Liljegren and Semyonov can be shipped to AHL’s Marlies without exemptions. Brooks and Amadio should receive waivers on Sunday. Kurtis Gabriel and Alex Biega were there on Saturday. Any team has until 2pm on Sunday to claim them.
The presence of Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin added some spice to Saturday night’s game. Two years ago, he made a name for himself by taking careers at Matthews. Last year, Sabourin was a Leaf. Now he’s back with the Senators and fought Justin Holl in the first period, then Wayne Simmonds in the third. Simmonds dropped him in two hits and mimicked Sabourin sinking in the fight.
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