Toronto's Dicey Salary Cap Situation: The Limits of the Bonus Cushion

DragLikePull
August 01 2016 03:11PM

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Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com

It's pretty evident that the Leafs are in a very tight situation in regard to the NHL's salary cap at the moment.  As of the time I'm writing this, General Fanager has the Leafs at just $55,916 in cap space.  CapFriendly, which uses a slightly different list of players, has the Leafs with a little bit more room: $435,000.  Since the Leafs still need to sign a back-up goalie, that's obviously not a great place to be in.  But both cap sites are actually over-estimating how much space the Leafs have left, and that's because of the way that rookie bonuses work.

A couple of days ago Jeff Veillette listed all of the possible bonuses that the Leafs might have to pay out over the next couple of seasons.  There are 15 players under contract to the Leafs who have the potential to hit performance bonuses next season.  However, many of them will play few or even no minutes for Toronto in 2016-17, so we don't need to take account of all of them.  But if we add up all of the players who are likely to make the opening night roster, the potential damage from bonuses is still pretty large.

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What Will Martin Marincin's Next Contract Be?

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July 29 2016 07:00AM

Martin Marincin is the last remaining Toronto Maple Leaf with an arbitration hearing scheduled.  Peter Holland and Frank Corrado both signed short-term contracts with the team shortly before their arbitration dates, while Marincin is set for Tuesday, August 2.  Before Holland's hearing, I took a shot at guessing what his AAV might wind up being based on the contracts signed by players with similar statistics over the previous few seasons.  Holland ended up signing well below my guess, but I think the general method is still sound (it's similar to how arbitrators make their decisions), so I'm going to make an attempt at estimating Marincin's next contract value in this post.

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What Will Peter Holland's Next Contract Be?

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July 18 2016 07:30AM

The Toronto Maple Leafs currently have five restricted free agents who still need contracts before the season starts.  Two of them are coming off entry-level contracts and do not have arbitration rights: Josh Leivo and Connor Carrick.  The other three have all filed for arbitration: Peter Holland, Martin Marincin, and Frank Corrado.  The most interesting of those, to me, is Peter Holland.  Holland was brought to Toronto in November 2013 when a slew of injuries left the Leafs without a sufficient number of NHL centres.  The trade cost the Leafs 2nd and 7th round draft picks, as well as defensive prospect Jesse Blacker.  Holland has played well for the Leafs offensively but struggled to earn ice time, never breaking 15 minutes of TOI any of his three seasons with the team. 

With Holland's arbitration date just a week away, I thought it would be interesting to see what comparable players had signed for in recent seasons.  But before jumping into that list, let's take a look at what kind of player the Leafs have.

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A Statistical Look At Matt Martin

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July 14 2016 07:17AM

Matt Martin's contract with the Leafs seems to be one of the most divisive additions the team has made in the post-Nonis era.  Many fans are excited about a player Mike Babcock described as "a real good skater, real good forechecker."  Babcock added that he sees Martin as a player who will "keep the flies off our team and give us a presence out there."  The Leafs Nation's own Jess Pincente reflected the other side when she described the signing as "questionable" and "somewhat hard to justify."

Whatever the case, the Leafs have Martin on a 4-year contract now, so it's worth trying to figure out what exactly they can expect to get for $2.5 million per season.  Some people, like Babcock, see Martin as bringing qualities in terms of his personality and style of play that will help the Leafs' younger players adjust to and excel in the National Hockey League.  I'll leave that kind of analysis to others.  What I'm going to take a look at here is how Matt Martin stacks up statistically.  In particular, I'll look at him from three angles: offensive production, puck possession, and neutral zone play.

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One Small Mistake Isn't A Big Deal. Several Small Mistakes Can Be.

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July 05 2016 07:01AM

One common refrain among hockey fans is that there's no need to worry about overpaying players, as long as you don't overpay them by too much.  It's the big mistakes that ruin a team, according to this line of thinking, things like signing David Clarkson to a nearly $37 million contract.  Smaller mistakes, then, aren't worth fretting about, so long as you don't make any major blunders alongside them.

There is a level on which this sentiment is true.  Overpaying a single player by, say, $1M a year isn't going to be the difference between missing the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup.  No team, after all, is perfectly efficient in how they use their salary cap space.  If a hockey team slightly overpays one player and never squanders money elsewhere in the lineup, there's not much to worry about. 

The problem is that teams almost never make one mistake and then stop.  Overpayments and wasted money will typically show up in a number of places in terms of how teams allocate their salary cap room, and over time those overpayments do add up, and they can cause real problems.  Let's take a look at some of the ways that the Leafs are currently using their cap space as a demonstration.

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