World Cup exits not in vain for Rielly, Komarov & Matthews

The World Cup of Hockey has come to a close for a trio of Leafs who had, by all accounts, successful tournaments individually despite their respective teams’ premature exits.

The Finnish team failed to generate anything in the way of offense, scoring only once after a furious forecheck by Leo Komarov generated a turnover on the end boards leading to the Valtteri Filppula goal versus Team North America. They weren’t able to bottle up teams as they’ve done successfully in the past and couldn’t seem to establish the industrial identity we’ve come to expect of the Finns, but Komarov was one of a few bright spots for his ability to bring his line into the fight and swing some momentum for his team. In signature Komarov fashion, he made enemies in the process. It should be long past obvious now that Komarov is less of a plugger and more of an effective complementary player who can think and play the game at a high level. Team Finland will miss him if he does indeed call it quits on his international career.

Morgan Rielly started the tournament as a major minute logger for Team North America and his game only improved once the team’s number one defenceman and Rielly’s partner, Aaron Ekblad, left the tournament with an apparent head injury after sustaining a devastating but clean hit by Komarov. There were some less than flattering defensive moments, but spells of Team North America’s games were obviously played with little regard for structure. Rielly became a favourite of Todd McLellan’s in short order, looked fantastic leading and joining rushes, and appears as though he’s added some oomph to a shot that is a continued work in progress. Rielly still has strides to make in his own end, but it’s encouraging to think about the heights he could reach on a team with proper offensive talent, a better partner, and a green light from his coach.

Auston Matthews‘ tournament speaks for itself. He went from the “13th forward” — really only on paper — to playing 20 minutes a night and leading the Team North American attack alongside Connor McDavid. While he spent the tournament on the wing, his man strength, his skill, his smarts, his powerful skating stride and his mature grasp of the finer details of the game were all readily apparent to anyone watching. He looked more than capable of shifting to center and not missing a beat. The accomplishment of jumping into a best-on-best international tournament and impacting games the way Matthews just did at the age of barely-19 is rivalled only by a few greats historically, but it feels unfair to name those names before Matthews has even played an NHL game. The ‘Auston Matthews’ chants that rang out throughout the ACC cemented the realization that this kid is indeed the real deal and he is actually a Leaf.

Joffrey Lupul to Injured Reserve

After all was said and done, there was no appearance from Joffrey Lupul today except for a written statement provided by Maple Leafs PR. He doesn’t sound likely to play a part at any point this season.

Another victory for ‘Loophole Lou’, right? Not exactly. This is something we’ve written about extensively here in the past, so I’ll only summarize it below in broad strokes:

  • Long Term Injury Reserve does not wipe the cap hit. Repeat: Long Term Injury Reserve does not wipe the cap hit.
  • The Leafs won’t use the Long Term Injury Reserve relief on any portion of Joffrey Lupul’s $5.25 million cap hit. Stephane Robidas and Nathan Horton already allow the Leafs to exceed the cap by up to $8.25 million through LTIR, but the Leafs will not use anywhere close to that amount.
  • If possible, the Leafs should be striving to take advantage of no relief at all on any of their LTIR contracts while leaving some cushion under the cap ceiling to account for performance bonuses on the contracts of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, among other entry-level players.

While it opens up a roster spot and avoids the Marlies route, it doesn’t actually benefit the team’s cap situation in any way.

Other takeaways from the media day interviews:

Leafs Links