Carolina Hurricanes v Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs likely to get Bolland back Saturday, not Bernier

Toronto forward Dave Bolland has been forced to sit out of 56 consecutive games due to an ankle injury, but there’s a good chance that he’ll be back for tonight’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens, reports

The Maple Leafs have already sent forward Carter Ashton to the minors as the team gets ready to potentially activate Bolland in the coming hours.

The bad news is that goaltender Jonathan Bernier will not be available as he continues to recover from a groin injury. This will be the fourth straight game that he’s missed. James Reimer, who has allowed 11 goals in Toronto’s last three contests, will play between the pipes again.

Toronto lost all three of Reimer’s recent starts, making this game against Montreal critical. The Maple Leafs only have a three-point cushion on the Detroit Red Wings in the battle for a postseason spot, but Toronto has played in two extra contests. In other words, if Toronto doesn’t stop its losing streak soon, the team might end up falling short of the playoffs.

Bernier and Bolland practice, but status remains unclear

Colton Orr, Roberto Luongo

Goalie Jonathan Bernier (groin) and center Dave Bolland (ankle) are potential returnees for the Maple Leafs this weekend.

The key word there is “potential,” because there were no guarantees from coach Randy Carlyle after both players practiced today.

With four losses in its last five — a stretch that’s come with talk of another epic collapse — Toronto hosts Montreal Saturday and is in New Jersey to play the Devils Sunday.

While Bernier was only recently forced out of the lineup, Bolland hasn’t played since Nov. 2, when he severed a tendon on the outside of his ankle during a game in Vancouver.

At the time Bolland was hurt, he had six goals and four assists in 15 games. His extended absence has often been cited by management when the Leafs have struggled.

Report: Maple Leafs struggle with Bolland’s $5M asking price

Carolina Hurricanes v Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have given Dave Bolland rave reviews in his short time with the team – at least in rare moments of health – but retaining his services might prove too costly.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Bolland is looking for $5 million per year (maybe more) in a contract extension while the Leafs are leaning more toward the $4 million range, as Dreger compares the “difficult” negotiations to the talks they went through with Tyler Bozak. Such an asking price might just prompt a trade.

The 27-year-old is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Bolland’s current cap hit is $3.375 million. He just returned to Maple Leafs practice from that severed tendon injury on Feb. 21.

If these negotiations force a trade, Dreger reports that GM Dave Nonis seeks a top-four defenseman or top-nine forward. It sounds like he wants a player with term on his contract rather than a “rental” player.

The question of Bolland’s value could be interesting. When healthy, he’s fit in well in Toronto, scoring 10 points in 15 games while impressing head coach Randy Carlyle with¬†his work ethic. It’s also true that he does a lot of things that don’t show up in box scores (and by “things” one sometimes means “agitating opponents to the point of sometimes taking bad penalties”).

On one hand, he didn’t always put up great numbers despite being surrounded by talented teammates in Chicago; on the other, he’s one of those rare players who has “Stanley Cup-winning goal” on his resume.

It remains to be seen if that resume ends up impressive enough to land him a new deal with the Leafs or instead prices him out of Toronto and onto another roster (either at the deadline or as a free agent this summer).

Here’s the full TSN’s Insider Trading segment.