If Muzzin is healthy, Maple Leafs won’t hold him back

On this edition of 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discuss international hockey fallout after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, an Olympic gold medal game rematch between Canada and USA, and the Coyotes meeting with the NHLPA, and more.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have told teams around the league they won’t be holding back defenceman Jake Muzzin if he returns early from the injury list, which will have an effect on how much salary they can take on before the trade deadline.

“The Maple Leafs are not in any position to rush him back, they’re not going to do that,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said during the 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. “But what they did tell teams this week was if Jake Muzzin is healthy enough to return before the end of the regular season, they’re not going to hold him out until the playoffs.

“That’s still to be determined, but they’re not approaching this as if they’re a team that has $7 million in long-term cap room to spend.”

In other words, the Leafs don’t plan on hiding Muzzin’s contract in long-term injury reserve for the rest of the season in order to spend a prorated $7 million ($2 million in current space plus Muzzin’s $5.625 million) on acquisitions before the deadline. Instead, if Muzzin plays before the end of the season, it means Toronto has in the neighbourhood of a prorated $2 million to spend before March 21.

“So, Toronto has said for now they’re looking at it as if they’re in the $2 million (range), and I think it’s likely they’re going to address their defence,” Friedman said. “But if Jake Muzzin can play before the end of the regular season, it sounds like Toronto’s plan is to play him.”

Muzzin left Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens during the second period following an awkward collision with Chris Wideman, when the Maple Leafs defenceman appeared to hit his head on the ice. He’s listed as having a concussion.

The 33-year-old from Woodstock, Ont., has since been placed on the long-term injured reserve list.

Muzzin has 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) and is averaging 21 minutes over 41 games this season. He also missed seven games recently after sustaining a concussion during a match against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 15 when he was hit into the end boards by Klim Kostin.

According to CapFriendly, Toronto placing Muzzin on the long-term injured reserve frees up $5.625-million in cap space with the NHL trade deadline just under a month away on March 21.

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