The Leafs' best trade asset is their cap space

Jon Steitzer
February 11 2016 09:01AM


Truth be told, this is my second time writing this post this week. Monday I drafted up a plea for MLSE to dig into their pockets and realize that their cap space could be their greatest asset in improving the Leafs.

Tuesday essentially nullified my original post because the Leafs did exactly what I suggested they do, and use their current cap space to benefit the Leafs long term. For a short term hit over the next couple of seasons, the Leafs have added a solid prospect, a second round pick, and have rid themselves of the albatross Phaneuf contract.

Clearly there is some merit to treating cap space as an asset, and with plenty of room left to maneuver, I'd certainly hope the Leafs will continue to exploit this asset.

leafsgenfan

In short, the cap situation is very good. The Leafs are well under budget and don't need to worry about taking any salary back. If they were a good team, they could add pretty much any player they wanted.

The Leafs are not a good team - in fact, they're a pretty bad one. Where many of us were banking on the idea of selling off rental players who were having strong seasons, the Leafs are pretty much limited to James Reimer and P.A. Parenteau as easily marketable deadline rentals. 

This situation is not helped by the fact there will probably be around 10 teams come deadline time that consider themselves out of the playoffs and wanting to sell off their players (with many of those players being much better than Nick Spaling).

The good news is that this doesn't exclude the Leafs from having a strong deadline. Remember that $5M of space? Most competitive teams don't have that. Most teams looking to sell players don't have that either. A lot of those contending teams that want to make a trade for someone like an Andrew Ladd are going to have to dump salary somewhere along the way. And that's where the Leafs can help.

Taking on a player like Bryan Bickell isn't an appealing option for most teams. Really it shouldn't be appealing for the Leafs either, but it's something that is manageable. By taking Bickell for someone like Sam Carrick, the Leafs have given almost $3M of cap space to Chicago for the next couple of seasons. They've allowed them to flexibility they need to upgrade, and prepare for a Stanley Cup run. It's just the small matter of the fee that the Leafs need to charge for this service.

I'd assume we don't see this too often because the price would have to be substantial to take on some of these contracts, particularly ones like Bickell's that carry a little term, but on expiring deals, the Leafs can and should max out this space in order to speed their own rebuilding process.

As I did last year, I've compiled my annual Pooper Scoopers list. These are the players that teams are likely looking to rid themselves of in order to bring in more beneficial players. Last year I included players with over two years left, this year I'm limiting it to one remaining year, as it would be unfortunate to see the Leafs burden themselves beyond the 2016-17 season.

pooperscoopers

Interestingly enough, this original list included Jared Cowen and Colin Greening. So hopefully, this version has similarly worthwhile targets.

For a lot of these teams, they simply aren't in a situation where they are willing to pay a price to remove bad contracts. By the deadline at least 10 teams, including the Leafs, will be in a seller situation. While Edmonton would love to rid themselves of the extra year of Ference, they aren't going to mortgage their future to do so.

Really this list becomes more about teams like Dallas, Chicago, the Islanders, etc. And in many cases, they're probably considering moving some less obvious players as well, if a significant upgrade is available.

The Leafs have already shown that they can make deals with teams on the seller side of things, although Ottawa may be viewing themselves as a team capable of a late push. 

There are plenty of other players that could be considered salary dumps beyond this list, but the idea of taking an extra year of term shouldn't be appealing for the Leafs unless they are bringing in someone who they think can play well enough for them in coming years.

As for shorter term deals that intrigue me, I wonder if Washington could be a good match for the Leafs if Toronto was willing to take Brooks Laich, and his $4.5M cap hit for next season.Washington very much wants to make a serious run this year, and this could help them load right up. 

Of course, they already have $6M in cap space, so they're probably set.

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#1 Gary Empey
February 11 2016, 06:19PM
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@Jon Steitzer: Will Toronto need to free up 14 million to sign Stamkos?

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#2 Thomas
February 12 2016, 04:37AM
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Long term planning by Leafs - like the moves. They got wiggle room. They are renting out their storage space - commodity is Cap Freedom. The price = draft picks or highly touted prospects.

Like your moves Lou and crew

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#3 justin!
February 12 2016, 05:07AM
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Gary Empey wrote:

@Jon Steitzer: Will Toronto need to free up 14 million to sign Stamkos?

Probably not since Stamkos will sign long term and will average a cap hit lower than 14 million.

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