You remember the talk during training camp: the Leafs were so cap-strapped, they'd struggle to put a full team on the ice. Injuries, one after the other, and the status of Jake Muzzin solved that problem. Then the trade deadline activity created the problem anew, by using every scrap of LTIR room available. Until Ryan O'Reilly broke his finger.
With O'Reilly added to LTIR, the Leafs have been able to keep the roster fairly full as they play the last few games of the season. O'Reilly is due back any day now, and my expectation is he will play before the end of the season. That means some changes have to come.
The Leafs have been using 13-14 other forwards and nine defenders as well as the two goalies. This configuration leaves approximately $1.1 million in the LTIR pool with 13 total forwards or a few hundred thousand with 14. This isn't enough to recall O'Reilly at $1.875 million.
Slightly complicating this is that Bobby McMann is on the NHL roster, but is hurt. There has been a chain of emergency recalls of forwards from the Marlies, who were then swapped for someone different ever since O'Reilly was hurt. The Leafs have been utilizing this system to rest players who are slightly banged up by recalling forwards to the maximum available space.
With O'Reilly healthy, most of that space vanishes, as does the big emergency excuse to recall these AHLers without using up the limited regular recalls.
McMann had to be moved to LTIR to make room for Nick Abruzzese to play on Sunday. If all the other recent recalls are sent back, that leaves just enough space for O'Reilly. The other choice is to return Wayne Simmonds to the AHL, since he is also on an emergency recall.
That's all very simple and doesn't affect the baseball team of defencemen on the roster. It does remover most of the wiggle room to add players to rest someone for a game. But then what about Matt Knies?
Wait! Wrong Matt. After last night, what about Matt Murray?
If Murray is slightly hurt, some manoevering will happen to bring Joe Woll up, and that will delar O'Reilly's return. If Murray's LTIR hurt (24 days minimum) then O'Reilly can be insta-healed, join the team, so can Woll and all the extra forwards anyone could ever want.
In any event, Knies is a problem for several days from now. He has to play in the Frozen Four on April 6 and hopefully April 8 first. But for him to join the team on a new contract, there has to be space for it, so (barring Murray on LTIR) that means Simmonds has to come off the salary cap and be sent to the AHL along with all the extra forwards, and there's not going to be one scrap extra of space after Knies picks up the pen. The projected LTIR pool will be $928,750 with the roster cut to 12 forwards by demoting Simmonds. The max ELC Knies can sign is $925,000 before bonuses.
We'll likely see him pick up the pen as the Leafs head to Florida to play the Panthers on April 10. And I'm betting he signs a team-friendly, bonus-free contract.