Depending on way dollars are counted, Leafs could be in trouble

If Brian Burke, a man who has never let himself get away with excessive spending, doesn’t have a team that will be put into an advantageous position when the collective bargaining agreement is all settled, then what the heck is it we’re doing here? 

By now I think we know some of the particulars of the owners’ demands. We know that they want caps on expensive contracts, and for the players to take the hit in the transition to 50-50. (The first question you need to ask here is ‘why do they need to do this?’) Burke’s Leafs stand according to Capgeek at just over $64.3M committed in 2013. 

The salary cap under the previous CBA was set at about $70.2M. The way it works is that a midpoint is calculated by totalling hockey-related revenues (or HRR) across all clubs, taking 57% (the players’ share) and dividing that above the 30 teams to establish a midpoint. The salary cap was designed to be $8M above the midpoint, and the salary floor at $8M below.

By taking 50%, not 57%, of the total HRR from last season, estimated at about $3.303-billion, we’re left with a salary cap of $63M. Despite not owning a contract over $4.5M that isn’t a sensible, it’s likely that the Leafs will actually need to shed salary, not take it on, going into next season. 

Here’s the breakdown, via Capgeek:


Mikhail Grabovski $5,500,000.00
Phil Kessel $5,400,000.00
Tim Connolly $4,750,000.00
Joffrey Lupul $4,250,000.00
James van Riemsdyk $4,250,000.00
Matthew Lombardi $3,500,000.00
Clarke MacArthur $3,250,000.00
Nikolai Kulemin $2,800,000.00
Nazem Kadri $1,720,000.00
Tyler Bozak $1,500,000.00
Jay McClement $1,500,000.00
David Steckel $1,100,000.00
Matt Frattin $925,000.00
Mike Brown $736,667.00
Total $41,181,667.00


Dion Phaneuf $6,500,000.00
Mike Komisarek $4,500,000.00
John-Michael Liles $3,875,000.00
Carl Gunnarsson $1,325,000.00
Jake Gardiner $1,116,667.00
Korbinian Holzer $575,000.00
Cody Franson  
Total $17,891,667.00


James Reimer $1,800,000.00
Ben Scrivens $612,500.00
Total $2,412,500.00


Colby Armstrong $1,000,000.00
Darcy Tucker $1,000,000.00
Total $2,000,000.00

Total Breakdown:

Forwards $41,181,667.00
Defencemen $17,891,667.00
Goalies $2,412,500.00
Buyouts $2,000,000.00
Total $63,485,834.00

“Total Breakdown” is a good phrase for this. van Riemsdyk is the only contract that extends past five years. I think I wrote earlier in the summer that Burke’s restrictive spending habits might help the Leafs come the new CBA, but as it turns out, not front-loading the previous contracts will hurt the Leafs more in the transitional stages. The Leafs are spending about $58.8M on these players, and they have higher cap hits than salaries in the early part of their contracts. The Lightning and Capitals, each with a similar salary cap payroll, will be paying their players more.

If the NHL comes out with a new way to count contracts against the cap, such as going by total spent dollars, that’s the only way the Leafs won’t have to shed salary. We don’t know what the NHL will look like in that transitional stage, but if there’s an abbreviated season and the NHL wants to be sure that no team gets a financial advantage, how they sort out the transitional stage could very well determine whether the Leafs even have room to add Roberto Luongo or a defenceman.

The NHL wants to keep the money inside the system, so amnesty buyouts aren’t on the table for guys like Lombardi, Connolly or Liles. The only way the Leafs have a saving grace or can add to the roster is if the NHL changes the way contracts count against the cap in the new system.

While we’re at it, can we interest Phoenix in a broken Matt Lombardi? A good fixer-upper…


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  • They won’t implement the cap THIS season though, so the Leafs should be good for next year with Lupul, Lombardi, Bozak, Steckel, Connolly all coming off the books. They won’t have to shed salary as soon as the lockout ends.