Defenseman Conor Timmins will undergo an MRI for a lower-body ailment (believed to be a knee injury), Sheldon Keefe announced on Saturday.
Conor Timmins took a big hit late in the third last night and is out long-term #Leafs
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) September 30, 2023
Sheldon Keefe says Conor Timmins suffered a lower body injury late in Friday’s game against Montreal.
He’ll go for an MRI today to determine the severity.
The Leafs are already dealing with an injury to John Klingberg on the right side.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) September 30, 2023
Timmins’ history with injuries and overall time on the sidelines makes this news all the more unfortunate if the injury is as serious as believed. He missed the entire 2018-19 season with a concussion and played only 42 games in 2019-20. He underwent knee surgery in 2021 and played only six games in 2021-22. The 2022-23 campaign amounted to just 33 appearances in total between Tucson, Arizona, and Toronto.
All told, it’s a total of 118 games over the last five years for Timmins or an average of 23 games a season at the pro level (NHL or AHL). That’s very little game action at a critical time in his development.
Timmins turned 25 a few weeks ago, and after fully committing to the development program the Leafs had him on following the acquisition from Arizona last year, was in the best place he’s ever been in terms of the traction he was gaining with his physical fitness, red-hot offensive production (two goals and six points in three preseason games), and some signs of improvement within his all-around game. If the knee injury is serious, it is a real hoof to the groin.
For the Leafs, it could punt a roster dilemma for the time being as they may no longer be imminently facing a tough decision due to Timmins’ waiver status and a tight cap picture that makes it impossible to carry extra bodies without additional moves.
Assuming Timmins is out long enough to go on LTIR, they can stash him there and utilize the relief on his $1.1 million cap hit. They are already going to use the cap relief on Jake Muzzin and Matt Murray’s LTIR status, and if we tag on Timmins’ cap hit, it gives them up to $11.4 million in relief available.
If Nick Robertson (waiver exempt), Martin Jones, Dylan Gambrell (injured – concussion), and Pontus Holmberg (waiver exempt) are moved off the NHL roster, Conor Timmins is moved onto LTIR, and Noah Gregor is signed around the league minimum to fill out the 12 forwards, they should be able to duck under the cap without moving any bodies out via trade.
One complicating factor might be John Klingberg’s injury status. Assuming he is ready to go for opening night, the Leafs currently have their six D set (Brodie – Rielly, McCabe – Klingberg, Giordano – Liljegren). If Klingberg isn’t available, Timmins will definitely be missed, and they may need to turn to William Lagesson or Simon Benoit to fill out their six D for opening night. Coming off of a minor injury that limited his participation in the first week of camp, Benoit is expected to make his preseason debut in Montreal on Saturday night.
The other unknown at this time is the status of Calle Jarnkrok, who has yet to appear in preseason due to an injury that isn’t believed to be overly long-term, but his absence has been lingering.
All of the above unknowns are exactly why the Maple Leafs entered training camp seemingly with too many bodies taking up too much cap space: injuries always happen in camp, and it’s better to have the depth at your disposal and need to solve the problem of too many healthy NHL-calibre players before the opening-night roster is due than to find yourself short on NHL options.
There is no doubt the team’s depth is stronger up front than on defense at the moment, though, so let’s hope for the best for Timmins’ and the Leafs’ sake.