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Rielly's status could determine deadline plan for Maple Leafs

Toronto may add at position if defenseman out long term

by Dave McCarthy / Independent Correspondent

TORONTO -- Morgan Rielly's status could determine if the Toronto Maple Leafs add a defenseman prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24, general manager Kyle Dubas said.

Rielly, who has 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) in 46 games, fractured his foot Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and it was announced that the defenseman would be reassessed after eight weeks.

Video: Rielly to miss eight weeks with an injured foot

"We could add a defenseman, but just to say that we did is not something we would do," Dubas said Thursday. "We would want someone to move the needle for us in the long run, not in the short run unless it was the perfect deal."

Dubas said Rielly is expected to meet with doctors toward the end of next week, giving the Maple Leafs a better idea of his progress leading up to the trade deadline.

"I think it would have to be something in the long run, a long-term situation we want to address," Dubas said about acquiring a player with a contract beyond this season. "But it will all depend on Morgan and as we get more updates on him in terms of how long he's going to be out, that will dictate how much cap space we will have going into the deadline." 

Rielly, Justin Holl, Rasmus Sandin and Martin Marincin are the only Maple Leafs defensemen under contract beyond this season. Cody Ceci, who will be placed on injured reserve after injuring his ankle Wednesday in a 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers, Tyson Barrie and Jake Muzzin each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, when Travis Dermott can become a restricted free agent.

"We're not going to comment on that, we've had enough contract talk in this room to last us a decade, so we're good, thanks," Dubas said when asked about Muzzin's status.

The Maple Leafs acquired goalie Jack Campbell and forward Kyle Clifford in a trade from the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday for forward Trevor Moore, a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Video: Reid on the Leafs acquiring Campbell, Clifford

Toronto, which will play the Anaheim Ducks at Scotiabank Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; SNO, PRIME, NHL.TV), trails the Florida Panthers by one point for third in the Atlantic Division and the Philadelphia Flyers by two points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"The real test for our staff is we have to remain patient and keep the long game in mind always," Dubas said. "We're being tested now to be able to endure a tough spot and come out on the other side. That's really something our organization needs to do. I know there is consternation and panic and anxiety but I look at it as one of the best opportunities we've had in my whole time here because I do have a strong belief in the group and that it is capable of great things."

Toronto has qualified for the playoffs in each of the past three seasons but has not advanced past the first round since 2004.

"We're two points out of a playoff spot, teams ahead of us have games in hand and we're not in a great spot but it's a great test for our guys to develop and grow," Dubas said. "I'm excited about it, I don't fear it. If we handle it the right way, it'll be a great growth opportunity for us."

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