Toronto Maple Leafs' defenseman Jake Muzzin will miss the remainder of the 2022-23 regular season and playoffs recovering from a cervical spine injury, the club announced on Wednesday.
That decision was made after Muzzin spent months meeting with specialists and medical professionals about his condition. Toronto will update Muzzin's status again at training camp in September.
The 34-year-old appeared in just four games this season through mid-October before being sidelined by the spine issue. It was similar to the one Muzzin suffered last year, which limited the veteran to playing in only 47 games prior to his return for the postseason. He has also been through concussion protocols at least twice over the past two years.
When healthy, Muzzin has been a key part of the Leafs' top-four defensive rotation since the team acquired him via trade with Los Angeles in January 2019. Muzzin won a Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2014 and that championship pedigree -- along with his difference-making play at 5-on-5 and on special teams -- makes his absence for Toronto's projected upcoming postseason run a major blow to the backend.
The Leafs previously moved Muzzin to long term injured reserve and can use that available cap space now ahead of the NHL's March 3 deadline to potentially add some defensive depth. Toronto has cycled through a number of other injuries to its blue line -- Rasmus Sandin is currently day-to-day with an ailment -- and clarity on Muzzin's status moving forward gives GM Kyle Dubas a better sense of how to put the Leafs in an optimal position to succeed come the playoffs.
What's less obvious is if -- or how -- Muzzin's history of head, neck and spine injuries impacts his playing future. To date, Muzzin has skated in 683 NHL contests, with 69 goals and 294 points.
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