Joel Edmundson makes surprise appearance at Leafs' game day skate

Mike Armenti
April 3, 2024  (11:44)

Joel Edmundson rocking the Leafs' brand new St. Pats uniform

The Toronto Maple Leafs received a nice surprise on Wednesday in the form of injured defenseman Joel Edmundson joining the team for their game day skate ahead of tonight's matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Just a day after Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe provided significant updates on both Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly, confirming that both are set to return to the lineup this week, Edmundson was dressed in his full gear, taking part in the Maple Leafs' optional game day skate ahead of tonight's clash with the Lightning.
With Morgan Rielly set to return to action tonight, per Keefe's comments on Tuesday afternoon, seeing Edmundson skating this morning was a real breath of fresh air for a Leafs team who has dealt with a myriad of injuries this season - particularly on the blueline.
Like Rielly, Edmundson suffered an undisclosed injury against the Carolina Hurricanes back on March 24th. Thankfully, the team has played extremely well during their respective absences, going 3-1-0 over the last 4 games, with consecutive wins against the Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers.
Edmundson was one of the Maple Leafs prized acquisition ahead of the 2023-24 NHL Trade Deadline, with the other main additions being Ilya Lyubushkin, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks on February 29th, and Connor Dewar, who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild shortly before the 3pm cutoff on March 8th.
After coming to Toronto from Washington, Edmundson formed what appeared to be a very solid pairing with 2017 1st round pick Timothy Liljegren. Edmundson, a big, mean, lanky, stay-at-home defenseman had paired well with the more mobile, offensively inclined puck-mover, Liljegren. Unfortunately, with both players having gone down to injury within the last 2 weeks, they have been unable to continue building that chemistry with one another. With the playoffs fast approaching, that is a legitimate concern.
Last week, Sheldon Keefe told the media that both Liljegren and Edmundson should be considered "week-to-week", though he also confirmed that he doesn't expect either injury to stretch past the regular season, indicating that he expected both players back at some point during the regular season. Obviously, that's very good news for a Leafs blueline that has relied a little too much on a 40-year-old Mark Giordano, who only recently came back from a concussion, and a 25-year-old Conor Timmins who has been limited to just 22 games this season due to illness, injury and his placement on the depth chart.

Joel Edmundson makes the Maple Leafs tougher to play against in the playoffs

I know we haven't seen a lot of Edmundson in the blue and white yet, but in the 7 games that he has played, he's been noticeable, particularly in the 6-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on March 23rd. If you'll recall, Edmundson played around 23 minutes in that game, posting 3 shots on goal, 5 hits and 3 blocked shots. He also dispensed some pain on Oilers superstar Leon Draisaitl.
Edmundson's ability to clear the front of the net, box guys out, grind along the wall, play heavy hockey and drag guys into the fight will come in handy come playoff time. You don't get to two Stanley Cup Finals in 3 years by being a pushover. Edmundson is the one doing the pushing, and because of that, he has the potential to be a real difference-maker for the Leafs in the playoffs.
No, he wasn't the sexiest name out there ahead of the trade deadline, but the Leafs paid a fair price to get a guy who they believe checks a lot of boxes for them on the back end, and someone with a ton of valuable playoff experience. Edmundson has a great reputation around the league as being a guy who others look up to, trust and respect. He plays the game hard, but most importantly, he plays the game the right way. Edmundson is not a guy who is going to cheat for offense. As a stay-at-home defenseman, it's just not in his blood. He will, however, skirt the line when it comes to playing in front of his own net. He has a reputation for delivering those lower-back cross-checks that can really punish the opposition if they stand there too long and take it.

Is Edmundson's return imminent for the Leafs?

Despite Edmundson gearing up for today's morning skate, Sheldon Keefe has already confirmed that he will not be in the lineup tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The goal isn't to get Edmundson back in the lineup as quickly as possible here. The goal is to bring him back into the fold when he's as close to 100% as possible.
The playoffs are a grind and players are going to be playing through things throughout their entire playoff run. However, what the Leafs need to try to avoid here is bringing any nagging injuries INTO the playoffs. If guys have to sit an additional game or 2 to ensure that they're coming back as healthy as they can be, then so be it. We saw it with Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner, and now we're seeing it with Edmundson, who by all appearances, is healthy enough to return after showing up to the morning skate in a regular jersey rather than a non-contact jersey.
Coming into tonight, the Maple Leafs have 8 games remaining on their schedule. Even if Edmundson sits out tonight's game and Saturday's game in Montreal, it will still give him 6 more games to get prepared for the playoffs, minus any time the Leafs choose to give guys off ahead of Game 1. That should be more than enough time for a savvy veteran like Edmundson to get his body right and his mind right before April 20th.
3 AVRIL   |   456 ANSWERS
Joel Edmundson makes surprise appearance at Leafs' game day skate

Is Joel Edmundson going to be a difference maker for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs?

Yes, he's a playoff defenseman35978.7 %
No, he's just another depth guy9721.3 %
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