In an effort to battle injuries, the Toronto Maple Leafs have added veteran centerman Jerred Smithson.
Smithson was signed by the team to a one-year deal. The exact financial terms of the deal remain unknown at this time, but they cannot be very high given Smithson’s career numbers and the limited amount of salary cap space still available to the Leafs.
Over the course of 12 seasons, Smithson has recorded 96 points (39 goals, 57 assists) in 588 career games at the NHL level. He played for the Edmonton Oilers last season, registering one goal in ten games.
The 34-year-old centerman from Vernon, British Columbia will be called upon to help fill the sudden hole up the middle on the Leafs’ roster. Recent injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland have left the Leafs without their top two centermen for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately, Smithson won’t be asked to pick up the slake all by himself. Regular winger James van Riemsdyk has been practicing at center on the top line between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul over the past few days. The Leafs could try Kessel at center on the first line as well – something they’ve tried unsuccessfully in the past.
Jay McClement could also be moved up to the third line, which would hand Smithson the much easier task of pivoting the team’s fourth line.
Nazem Kadri is expected to resume his regular duties as the team’s second line center.
Toronto doesn’t play again until Friday evening so there’s still plenty of time to work things out. Hopefully, Bozak and Bolland return to the lineup soon, but that seems highly unlikely in the case of Bolland given the nature of his injury.
There’s a good chance Bolland won’t return to the lineup this year – there’s a better chance of him returning sometime in 2014.
As the Leafs attempt to manage these two key injuries, their explosive start to the season takes on added importance: the wins might come with much less regularity in the weeks and even months ahead.
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