In an event reminiscent of the short-lived training camp of goalie prospect Ian Scott, Petr Mrázek left his first game as a Maple Leaf with a groin injury. He joins Scott and the other prospect Joe Woll as injured goalies. Michael Hutchinson, set to be the starter in the AHL, now becomes the NHL backup in a more traditional goalie arrangement than the tandem that had been planned. After Jack Campbell started with EBUG Alex Bishop as backup in Game 3 of the season, the timeline was finally clarified:

This explains why the Maple Leafs allowed the roster emergency to occur, where they had to dress Bishop as backup. For Mrázek to be put on LTIR, he would have to stay out of action for 24 days and 10 NHL games.  If his injury turns out to be worse than expected, the Leafs can put him on LTIR retroactively, and will have the LTIR pool to recall a goalie in the usual way. For now, they are using the emergency rules.

Fourteen days from today encompasses this Maple Leafs Schedule:

  • A home game on Monday, October 18 vs the Rangers followed by three days off
  • A back-to-back with travel, the first trip to America since early 2020, on Firday and Saturday, October 22 and 23 vs San Jose and Pittsburgh
  • The Pittsburgh game begins a road trip that includes Carolina on Monday, October 25 and Chicago on Wednesday, October 27
  • With two days off — one eaten by travel — the Leafs are home to Detroit on Saturday, October 30
  • The next game is Tuesday, November 2 at home to Vegas, in what could be Mrázek’s return/

Management of Jack Campbell’s health has to be seriously considered by the Leafs, or this business could be the start of the same thing that almost derailed the Leafs last year when someone was always playing a little hurt for a section of games that don’t have very happy-looking results. The conservative action is to play Michael Hutchinson on one game of the back-to-back and consider starting him in Chicago, depending on Campbell’s status.

This is not just a hypothetical concern. The last time Campbell played more than 30-ish games was 2016-2017 in the AHL. He has never played more than 31 games in the NHL in one season, and appeared in only 22 last year. If this injury to Mrázek was long term, he’d be hitting that mark by the end of November.

Domino Effect and Emergency Rules

Meanwhile, with both prospects hurt as well, the Marlies signed last year’s unintentional number two goalie, Andrew D’Agostini to a try-out deal to help with the workload that now falls entirely onto Erik Källgren in the AHL. Källgren got the win in his first game, and looked like a seasoned professional. The Marlies have six games before the end of October, and they always play back-to-backs, so here’s hoping no further injuries strike there.

Because the Maple Leafs played one game with less than 18 skaters and two goalies, they can recall Michael Hutchinson and he does not count against the cap as long as this roster emergency lasts. A “roster emergency” is covered under Article 50 of the CBA, which is all about the salary cap. This is not the same thing as “emergency recall” which is covered under Article 13, which is all about waivers.

A player can be an emergency recall without the roster emergency situation occurring first. If the team has less than two goalies, six defenders and 12 forwards healthy, the player or players they recall to fill those spots are on emergency recall. The team doesn’t have to actually play shorthanded to use this designation.

The difference between emergency recall and regular recall is subtle and applies to pay and benefits in ways not of interest to us today, as well as some other esoteric things, but the crucial point to us is the existing waiver exemption of a recalled player expires based on what type of recall they are on.

Regular recall allows for a player to play in nine games or be on the roster for 29 days, whichever is less before waivers are required again. Emergency recall drops the days counter and waiver exemption expires after nine games played.

Michael Hutchinson will be on an emergency recall, and will also be recalled under the roster emergency rules. His cap hit won’t count and he will have to play 10 times for his exemption to expire requiring waivers to return to the AHL.

The CBA does not directly clarify how games played is determined for a goalie who dresses as a backup but does not play, but it appears from historical examples that they do not count. So if something goes horribly wrong, and Hutchinson is on the roster well beyond 14 days, he’s not going to lose his waiver exemption until he appears in 10 NHL games. By then, we won’t care about simple things like waivers, obviously, but for now, that’s the way it could work.