Maple Leafs sign college goalie as backup against Senators

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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs will use University of Toronto goalie Alex Bishop as their backup to starter Jack Campbell when they host the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SNO, SNW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

The 24-year-old was signed to an amateur tryout and will not be paid. 

Goalie Petr Mrazek sustained a groin injury and did not return for the third period of a 3-2 loss at the Senators on Thursday. 

“Mrazek’s unavailable today and he is still be assessed in terms of how long he is going to be out,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “At this point it’s not looking like it’s going to be long term in terms of LTIR (long-term injured reserve) and that type of stuff.”

The Maple Leafs were forced to make this decision due to salary cap constraints, with an insufficient amount of salary cap space to recall a goalie from Toronto of the American Hockey League without making another roster move. In order to access the emergency recall exemption, the Maple Leafs would have to play short one player for one game but other factors surfaced with defenseman Justin Holl unable to play due to an illness.

“It just comes down to the fact that the flat cap (NHL salary cap) has created some situations here that are a lot more difficult to manage even compared to a year ago with the taxi squad,” Keefe said. “Justin Holl’s situation with him having cold symptoms and his PCR (COVID-19) test not having come back yet has created another situation for us.”

Timothy Liljegren, the only extra defenseman on the Maple Leafs roster, will make his season debut and replace Holl. The Maple Leafs could have assigned Liljegren, who is exempt from waivers, to Toronto of the AHL and recalled a goalie but then would have had to play with five defensemen due to Holl being unavailable.

Bishop has not played in a competitive game since since making 24 saves in a 3-1 loss to Western University on February 16, 2020. The University of Toronto did not play last season due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I haven’t even spoken to him yet, I just saw him on the ice,” forward Alexander Kerfoot said after the morning skate. “I didn’t score any on him, he looked pretty good.”

The last time an emergency backup goaltender was used was on February 22, 2020, also at Scotiabank Arena, when David Ayres made seven saves in 28:41 for the Carolina Hurricanes after Mrazek and James Reimer each sustained an injury during the game. Ayres earned the win with the Hurricanes defeating the Maple Leafs 6-3.

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