It shouldn’t be surprising when fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs wake up on Friday to see either Simon Benoit called up to the NHL roster again or William Lagesson getting a shot from his AHL post after Jake McCabe was injured on Oct. 27 in the team’s 4-1 win in Dallas.
The 30-year-old McCabe played just 10 seconds against the Dallas Stars on Thursday before he was forced to leave the game and did not return with what the team is calling a lower-body injury (LBI).
While the Maple Leafs are awaiting further testing to announce the severity of the injury, it was noted postgame that McCabe would likely miss the team’s next contest in Nashville against the Predators on Saturday night.
Looking at what the Maple Leafs have on the depth chart, the popular vote would likely be Benoit to get the next opportunity. However, there should be a discussion centred around Lagesson at this point as well.
Benoit Might Not Be the Best Choice
Let’s face it, Benoit has been an extra to this point this season and a paper move for the big club when they needed early call-ups this season. Beyond that, he was a late addition in the offseason that vowed to make the Maple Leafs roster at some point.
Now, while he is a physical defenceman, Benoit doesn’t add much on the offensive side of the puck. He lacks offensive prowess and as a puck mover, he isn’t overly intriguing either. Still, he ranked 21st in the NHL last season in the hits category with 216 and would be a tough out in his own end for opposing players — but does he fill the void and minutes left by McCabe? Likely not.
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McCabe is averaging 19:32 through the team’s first six games of the season. Considering Benoit is an extra for the Marlies at the moment, he seems like an odd choice to come in to help out the big club.
He does provide the team with NHL experience with 137 regular season games over the past three seasons. But his four goals and 15 points over that span aren’t overly exciting for a Maple Leafs’ brass that would like some more offence from the blue line this season.
So, where does that leave the team?
Lagesson Could Get the Call Up From Maple Leafs
The next in line could be Lagesson who has one assist in five games with the Marlies this season and is coming off a year in which he had 32 points in 65 games for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
Lagesson was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers back in 2014, but the 27-year-old has only played 60 games over three seasons at the NHL level with seven assists to show for it.
Even with the lack of NHL experience, Lagesson could be a better option for the Maple Leafs in talking about eating up some minutes. He had a strong showing in camp for the Maple Leafs and while the team’s blue line was essentially set in stone, he did create some conversation as the season got under way.
Lagesson isn’t small by any means at six-foot-two and just under 210 pounds and he can play physically when needed — even dropping the mitts from time to time. The difference, however, between him and Benoit is that he does offer that puck-moving mentality and ability to contribute offensively while played some deserved minutes.
What Does A Call-Up Mean for Fraser Minten?
What makes this move a little more complicated — depending on how you look at it — is that it will force the Maple Leafs to open up a roster spot for the call-up regardless of who it would end up being.
With Fraser Minten having been a healthy scratch for the past three games, the likelihood would be that he would be sent back to Kamloops of the WHL to continue his junior career after a short stint with the Maple Leafs to open the season.
If it is, in fact, the case, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Maple Leafs’ prospect. In an important development season, Minten would benefit far more by being sent down and playing than continuing to sit in the press box the way that he has.
Lastly, the Maple Leafs could choose to overlook all of these options and play in Nashville with just five defensemen, though unlikely. Depending on the severity of the McCabe injury, it’s fair to assume we’ll see either Benoit or Lagesson join the team in the next 24 hours with Minten heading back to the Blazers for the remainder of the 2023-24 season.
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