TORONTO – Leafs centre Tyler Bozak’s taking part in the Game 7 warmup in Boston was mere subterfuge, it appears.
Bozak missed the last two games on the regular season and the final two of the Bruins playoff series because of what was described as an upper-body injury.
On Thursday, Bozak revealed that he tore his oblique at the end of the season and then tore a triceps muscle on the final faceoff of Game 5 in Boston.
“I knew after Game 5 pretty much that I was done for four weeks at least,” Bozak told reporters Thursday at Toronto’s wrapup media session. “It was a pretty bad tear and I wasn’t able to go.”
Asked about why he took the warmup Monday night, he said: “Obviously, it could have thrown them off a bit or whatever with line matching and everything, I think that’s the way we wanted to handle it.
“But I could barely hold my stick out there.”
Joe Colborne filled in for Bozak the last two games of the Boston series, which ended in a dramatic 5-4 overtime loss for Toronto.
The good news is Bozak won’t need surgery.
“But it always sucks watching when you’re out there with the guys all year (and) you want to help as much as you can and you’ve got to watch,” he said.
The 27-year-old Bozak is eligible to become a free agent this summer. His future is up in the air.
“I haven’t really thought about any of that, since playoffs,” he said. “I kind of just focused on hockey.
“Now I’m just going to take some time off. My agent will deal with that stuff. I’d like to stay here. It’s a place I love playing (in) so hopefully we can get something worked out.”
General manager Dave Nonis said “if there is a contract that makes sense for us and makes sense for Tyler, then we’ll sign him.
“But it’s not a situation where we have to sign Tyler Bozak because there are numbers that make sense for the team and there are numbers that make sense for Bozie. I believe, I always have believed, that if the player wants to stay with your team, you find a way to make it happen if you want to have him as well.”
In saying that, he also noted the salary cap number is going down next season.
“And how we allocate our dollars is going to be very important if we’re going to remain competitive.”
Bozak had 12 goals and 16 assists as the Leafs’ top-line centre in the lockout-shortened season. A close friend of linemate Phil Kessel, he was also the team’s top faceoff man.
Bozak made US$1.4 million this season, 12th highest on the team.
Other players headed to unrestricted free agency this summer are forwards Clarke MacArthur and Colton Orr and defencemen Ryan O’Byrne and Mike Kostka.