Steven Stamkos and UFA Theory

June 06 2016 07:00AM

After signing David Clarkson to a 7-year contract, Dave Nonis infamously told reporters, "I’m not worried about [years] six or seven."  Nonis has been widely criticised for the remark, which was ridiculous in the case of Clarkson, who wasn't even worth what the Leafs were paying him in year one.  And yet, because of the way the salary cap works, NHL general managers are frequently forced into decisions that involve trade-offs between up-front costs and longer-term sustainability.  Nowhere are those trade-offs more apparent than when trying to sign (or re-sign) a top free agent.

Barring a last minute change with the Lightning, it looks like this summer's top UFA is going to be Steven Stamkos. It's widely believed that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be one of the teams bidding for Stamkos's services, with TSN's Bob McKenzie saying, "there’s no doubt in my mind the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to take a hard run at Steven Stamkos."  Some people would argue that every team in the league should want to sign Stamkos. I don't believe it's that simple, though. Whether it makes sense to sign a top free agent depends on a number of factors. Let's take a closer look at what those are.

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Mitch Marner Should Be In The NHL Next Season

May 30 2016 08:30AM

On May 27 TSN published an article arguing that the NHL and CHL should modify their transfer agreement to allow "exceptional" drafted CHL players to play in the AHL, which they currently can not do until their 20-year-old season.  The focus of the article is on Mitch Marner, who just finished tearing up the Memorial Cup with the London Knights.  Gary Lawless, writing of Marner for TSN, says:

He may not, however, be ready for the NHL. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 164 pounds, it’s quite possible Marner will need some time in the AHL to adjust to the pro game. But that’s not available to him next season.

. . .

Marner, almost all would agree, would be best off adjusting to the challenges of the pro game in the AHL.

Size is a frequent theme in discussions of Marner.  Despite the way he continues to put up huge numbers in the OHL, many people believe Marner will struggle in the NHL because he is smaller than most NHLers.  I think that line of thinking is wrong.  While no one can predict the future with certainty, all of the available evidence suggests that Marner will be able to jump into the NHL next season and contribute at a reasonably high level.

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Sorting Out The Muddle On Toronto's Defence

May 22 2016 12:46PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a problem on defence: They have more players under contract than they have roster spots.  On the broad spectrum of problems a hockey team can have, it's not the worst situation to be in.  It would be much worse to have too few players and find yourself in a scramble to fill the remaining roster spots.  Nevertheless, it's still a problem that needs to be sorted out. 

I'm going to do my best to game out what the Leafs defence might look like next season.  The team currently has 11 defencemen who played at least one game in the NHL last year and are either still under contract or are restricted free agents.  Most of those players would have to pass through waivers to be assigned to the AHL, so the Leafs have some tough choices ahead of them.  In addition, they've recently added Nikita Zaitsev.  I'm going to look at who we can expect to make the team next season and who might get left out.

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Why Toronto's Top Off-Season Priority Should Be A Right-Handed Defenceman

May 16 2016 08:04AM

When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs' off-season plans, almost all the focus has been on the possibility of adding Steven Stamkos.  Adding an elite offensive player like Stamkos is an exciting possibility, but as a rebuilding team the Leafs have many areas of the roster in need of improvement, and all the talk about Stamkos has overshadowed other places where the Leafs have to get better.  In my opinion, none is more pressing at the moment than finding a defenceman capable of playing top-pair minutes on the right side.

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LTIR Isn't Free Cap Space And The Leafs Need To Be Cautious In Using It

May 07 2016 06:52AM

The NHL's Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception to the Upper Limit, generally shortened to "LTIR", is one of the most misunderstood concepts of the salary cap era.  Many fans believe that LTIR provides what is essentially free cap space for teams to use.  As a result, there are a lot of fans who clamor for the Leafs to add as much bad salary to LTIR as possible.  For example, there's a relatively frequent call for the Leafs to "Robidas" Joffrey Lupul and place him on LTIR for the remainder of his contract.  However, the way the injury exception works is not so simple, and it could cause the Leafs a lot of headaches this season.

I'm going to discuss three ways that LTIR could limit the Leafs this season.  The first is related to the fact that LTIR space isn't available during the off-season, the second is due to a relatively obscure rule called "tagging room", and the final one is due to the way bonuses on entry-level deals work.

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