Leafs announce Hunwick, a Babcock favorite, will have season-ending surgery

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Matt Hunwick, the journeyman blueliner enjoying one of his finest NHL campaigns, has been shut down for the year to have surgery on a recurring injury, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock announced on Tuesday.

Hunwick, 30, was playing on the club’s top defensive pairing with Morgan Rielly prior to getting hurt, averaging a career-high 22:34 TOI per night (second only to Rielly among Toronto skaters).

Signed to a modest two-year, $2.4 million deal last summer, Hunwick has emerged as one of the better value contracts on the club, and has earned the trust of head coach Mike Babcock, who’s used Hunwick in almost every situation imaginable this season.

Of course, it’s tough not to look at the Hunwick shutdown without a bit of cynicism.

The Leafs, having been accused of going full tank these last few months, currently have the likes of James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak on IR, and traded away former captain Dion Phaneuf, Roman Polak, Nick Spaling, James Reimer, Daniel Winnik and Shawn Matthias.

With Hunwick now sidelined, Toronto’s available defensemen for Wednesday’s game against the Islanders will be Rielly, Martin Marincin, Jake Gardiner, Frank Corrado, Connor Carrick and Viktor Loov.