Muzzin is recovering from a cervical spine injury and will be re-evaluated during Toronto’s training camp in September. He played in four games during the 2022-23 season, recording one assist before suffering the season-ending injury when he collided with Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller on Oct. 17.
Muzzin’s $5.625-million salary is accounted for in Toronto’s long-term injured reserve pool and the 34-year-old carries an identical cap hit for the 2023-24 season, the final year of his current deal.
It was expected by many that Muzzin would miss the remainder of the season, especially after the team took on Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari’s salaries during last week’s trade with the St. Louis Blues, but this confirms Toronto will be without one of its best defenders during this critical juncture of this team’s timeline.
Toronto has $4.4 million in cap space prior to the March 3 trade deadline but it’s unclear whether the Maple Leafs will pursue a defenceman — Columbus’s Vladislav Gavrikov among targets — to fill the permanent absence left by Muzzin’s season-ending diagnosis. Goaltender Matt Murray’s $4.68-million salary will count against the cap if he’s returned from injured reserve, as expected.
Mark Giordano has largely filled Muzzin’s void, and Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren have both taken a developmental leap this season, but Muzzin is still considered part of the team’s core and is widely respected for his leadership and playoff resume, winning a Stanley Cup with Los Angeles in 2014.
Muzzin suffered two concussions in the span of a month last season and missed two months after sustaining the second head injury in February 2022 before returning in April. He has been a key part of Toronto’s core since being acquired in a January 2019 trade, where the Maple Leafs sent Sean Durzi, Carl Grundstrom and a first-round pick to the Kings.