The Toronto Maple Leafs might have lost more than a game to the Edmonton Oilers. They might have lost first-line left-winger Joe Thornton. For who knows how long, but the first word is that it might be an extended absence.
Thornton Injured in an Innocent But Awkward Play
Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton was injured in the team’s loss Wednesday night to the Edmonton Oilers. He will miss some time, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe. During the game, Thornton logged 13:25 of ice time and had one shot on net before exiting the game.
The injury occurred when Thornton was bumped into the boards awkwardly during the second period. Keefe reported that Thornton was expected to have either x-rays or an MRI, so we’re likely to hear more about the specifics of the injury in the next few days.
Maple Leafs Must Scramble to Replace Thornton and Stay Under the Cap
Thornton exited during the third period of Wednesday’s game against the Oilers and went directly to the locker room after being hit by Oilers forward Josh Archibald. It’s not likely the 41-year-old NHL veteran will be able to play during the team’s next game; however, if he does, that chance would come during a rematch with these same Oilers on Friday.
If Thornton is sidelined, likely either Adam Brooks or Pierre Engvall would be moved into the lineup. In addition, the team would likely add reinforcements from the minors or the taxi squad.
If coach Keefe is correct that Thornton will ‘definitely’ miss time, there’s an implication on the salary-cap space available to the team. The long and short of it is that, because the Maple Leafs have very little cap space available, general manager Kyle Dubas will have to do some creative scrambling to stay under the cap space.
Because Thornton, although he’s a great player and an NHL veteran, is signed to an NHL league-minimum contract ($700,000) the team has to be careful who they bring up to replace him. Should Engvall replace him in the lineup, Engvall’s salary is $1.25 million, which is a difference of $525,000. That amount might not seem like much, but does the team have salary-cap space?
Until we hear more about Thornton’s injury, he will be considered day-to-day. It’s likely Zach Hyman will be slotted into the top line in Thornton’s place for the time being.
Thornton Leaves the Game in Pain After Accidental Bump
The video below shows Thornton exiting the game in pain.
Thornton Unable to Shake Off the Injury
As the announcer noted, Thornton was in some pain when he went to the Maple Leafs’ bench. The camera angle suggests that it was almost as if he jammed his wrist as he was hit when he was turning to make a play. He was in quite some discomfort and sat on the bench trying to shake the injury off, but wasn’t able to. He ended up going to the room.
Oddly, the play wasn’t overly aggressive. However, it was a combination of turning his body in and getting hit at that same time.
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