August 06 2013 06:09AM
The second buy-out window for the Toronto Maple Leafs came and went, and it's good to see that Dave Nonis did not use it to use it on John-Michael Liles. He had the opportunity to give his team the short-term cap relief necessary to have the space to easily re-sign Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri, but at a severe price to the future.
So that didn't happen, but Al Strachan, the ex-writer sounding off on Gary Bettman last night, used an odd excuse to explain why Nonis has yet to up the Leafs' second best scorer and top defensive scorer from last season: it's all the cap's fault.
The number of small mistakes that have added up include, but are not limited to the retained salary in the Jonathan Bernier deal, buy-outs on Colby Armstrong and Darcy Tucker, twin two-year contracts to two useless facepunchers and Mark Fraser's unexpectedly large raise. Even if you get beyond the fact that Nonis took huge gambles on Joffrey Lupul, David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak, at least those deals didn't slowly add up to destroy the team's salary cap situation if one truly believes they are the right players to lead the team in the future.
Nonis knows exactly what the salary cap is, having been a general manager when the cap was instituted. His first offseason ever in Vancouver he re-signed a good number of key players to contracts and managed to fit everybody under then new cap. It's not like they were scrubs. He got Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Mattias Ohlund, Ryan Kesler, Sami Salo and others under contract one way or another and the Canucks saw no key departures during that turbulent offseason that saw many players change jerseys.
Every team is playing by the same rules, and while I'm not entirely in favour of a cap, it exists, and needs to be taken into consideration when making hockey decisions. Even without a cap, it's not like the Leafs are a bottomless money pit that would be fine with letting whomever is the general manager sign every flavour of the year unrestricted free agent to a seven-year contract without any consequence when the signing turns out poorly. Every dollar you spend is a dollar that you can't spend elsewhere.
Perhaps ten years ago when the Leafs were buying up talent, nobody seemed to care about the deals they were handing out. There wasn't as much information circulating about contracts back then, but long-term deals generally meant three or four years as opposed to six, seven or eight as we see today. In the pre-cap era, deals like the ones given to Lupul, Clarkson and Bozak would still be considered peculiar, the idea being that the team buys up years to lower the average value of the deal. I'm not sure how a seven-year deal to a player that had never scored 50 points would be received back in 2002, but I'm near-certain some retired writer would have trashed the deal if there was a medium to conveniently share thoughts.
The salary cap isn't at fault, here.