Maple Leafs face difficult roster decision when Calle Jarnkrok returns

Ryan Smitheram
April 4, 2024  (9:48)

Calle Jarnkrok returned to the ice with skills coaches this week
Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA Today

The Toronto Maple Leafs may be forced to make roster moves they do not want to make once Calle Jarnkrok is cleared to return to game action.

Calle Jarnkrok has been out of action since March 14th, when he was injured after crashing into the boards as he dove to deflect the puck into the Philadelphia Flyers' zone. Many thought it was his shoulder at the time, but a few days later, the Leafs confirmed he had actually suffered his second hand injury in a matter of months.
Jarnkrok had previously missed six weeks with a broken knuckle that he suffered in practice at the end of January when he took a hard shot off the hand.
Jarnkrok has struggled to stay healthy this season, but even when healthy enough to be in the lineup, he has struggled offensively as well. In 52 games this season, he has just 10 goals and 21 points compared to his career-highs of 20 goals and 39 points that he set last season in 73 games.

What does a healthy Jarnkrok mean for the Leafs' roster?

Ahead of the Leafs' optional morning skate on Wednesday, Jarnkrok worked with the Leafs' skills coaches. The Hockey News' David Alter reported that Jarnkrok was not taking any shots and given that it is a hand injury, isn't likely anywhere close to returning. Of course, things can change daily and if Jarnkrok was to be deemed eligible to return, it would cause a major headache for the Leafs and their current roster.
The Leafs shifted Mitch Marner to LTIR last week to allow for some roster flexibility, but given he is scheduled to return this weekend, it would bring the Leafs to just under $500K in salary cap space. With Jarnkrok's cap hit being $2.1M, adding him and Marner to the roster would place the Leafs $1.5M over the cap. If they wanted to get Jarnkrok into a couple of games to end the season, they would have to send both Nick Robertson and Matthew Knies down to the Toronto Marlies. Those moves would obviously be paper transactions and fans may not be happy with GM Brad Treliving if it were to happen. Sending Robertson and Knies down would be the only way the Leafs could activate Jarnkrok without losing another roster player on waivers. Given how Knies and Robertson have played recently though, it may just make more sense for Jarnkrok to continue to recover and stay on LTIR until the season is over.

With Jarnkrok on the mend, is there a spot for him in the lineup to start the playoffs?

While Jarnkrok is a very good defensive forward, the Leafs shouldn't necessarily put him in the lineup to begin the playoffs simply because he is a "veteran". He has just 3 goals and 15 points in 64 career playoff games and as we have seen time and time again, the biggest issue for the Leafs in the playoffs is secondary scoring. As mentioned, Jarnkrok has 21 points in 52 games this season, while Robertson, who scored in back-to-back games before last night's clash with Tampa, has 24 points in 50 games and Knies has 13 goals and 33 points in 72. Knies also had 4 points in 7 playoff games last year before being injured. Combined with Robertson, the two of them have have scored at a 0.66 point-per-game pace in the playoffs which is three times the rate of Jarnkrok. With the deadline addition of Connor Dewar, and Marner's imminent return, it also isn't a necessity to have Jarnkrok in the lineup for penalty killing duties, especially with how well the penalty kill has played of late.
Jarnkrok may be a veteran presence who understands the playoff pressures, but does it really make sense for the Leafs to insert a player that has played just six games since January 30th into a playoff series against Florida (most likely) where the game is so much more intense? Probably not. Will Keefe do it anyway, just because of Jarnkrok's stature as an experienced NHLer? It is almost a guarantee and it will strictly be for the versatility of Jarnkrok being able to take faceoffs and kill penalties. Yes, he possesses a high quality shot, but the potential reward probably doesn't outweigh the risk here.
4 AVRIL   |   536 ANSWERS
Maple Leafs face difficult roster decision when Calle Jarnkrok returns

Would you put Calle Jarnkrok in the lineup for game 1 of the playoffs if you were Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe?

Not a chance8716.2 %
Definitely, he understands the pressure20738.6 %
Maybe not for Game 1, but later for sure24245.1 %
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