The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 8-4 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday evening ended up being a lot worse than just an ugly final score.
It also cost them their top defenseman for the next two months.
The Maple Leafs announced on Monday that Morgan Rielly is going to be sidelined for at least the next eight weeks after fracturing his foot in Sunday’s game.
He will immediately be placed on injured reserve and re-evaluated in eight weeks.
The team also announced that Rasmus Sandin, their first-round pick in 2018, has been recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
A questionable defense gets even worse
There is no way to sugarcoat this for the Maple Leafs, it is a significant loss.
They are already thin on the blue line and were probably going to need add another player before the trade deadline even when they were healthy. Now they are going to have to find a way to replace their best defenseman for two months in the middle of a playoff push. Adding to their problems is that Jake Muzzin, one of their other top defensemen, is also currently sidelined on a week-to-week basis due to a foot injury of his own.
Sandin is a fine prospect and has been having a great season in the AHL, but the Maple Leafs’ defense is in shambles right now.
Their current list of healthy defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Travis Dermott, Justin Holl, Martin Marincin, Cody Ceci, and Sandin.
That is, quite simply, not a very good NHL defense. Especially for a team that is supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender. They are going to need a huge push from Frederik Andersen in goal to mask that.
The Maple Leafs have been one of the hottest teams in the league under new coach Sheldon Keefe, but because of their slow start they still have just a two-point cushion in the playoff race.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.