The New Salary Cap Limit and the Potential Impact for the Leafs

The NHL and NHLPA have landed on the salary cap for the
2015-16, and low and behold it didn’t go down and in fact it went up more than
expected.

Now knowing that the Leafs and other teams around the league
are working with, we can revisit the Leafs cap situation and potential impacts
on the trade market.

First off, according to NHLNumbers.com the Leafs have
$53.6 M in committed salary next season, which is a number I’m sure we’ll see shift
radically throughout the next few days. That number includes Nathan Horton’s
$5.3M cap hit which will immediately go to the long term injury reserve as soon
as the season starts, so the Leafs are actually around $48.3M in committed cap
space.

Cat Silverman touched on what
it’s going to take to re-sign Jonathan Bernier
, and put him in the ballpark
of around $4.5M. With Kadri being the only other significant free agent that
requires signing I’m going to guess high (rather high actually) and commit $11M
to the two of them, putting the Leafs at $59.4M in used cap space, giving the
Leafs $12M to work with, and about eight roster spots that need to be filled.
This may be wishful thinking at this point, but I’d also hope the Leafs keep
some space available so in season deals, waivers claims, etc. can be completed
with ease, but $1.5M per roster space is enough of a challenge already (unless
you’re using ELCs) so that might be a difficult task to accomplish.

While, $12M cap space to fill 8 roster spots paints a gloomy
picture, the situation is far from it when you look at the number of trades the
Leafs are hoping to accomplish this offseason. For cap crunched teams seeing
the salary cap go up by $2.4M just gave them the ability to take on salary that
they would have otherwise relied on the Leafs to absorb. That doesn’t mean that
salary won’t be coming back to the Leafs, but it means that it’s less salary
and stretched out over a few trades the Leafs have a real opportunity to remove
their long term financial burden.

You would also hope that this found money completely removes
the idea of retaining salary on a long term deal, but it makes it enticing for
short term ones on players like Roman Polak,
James
Reimer
, or god willing, Stephane
Robidas
.

The cap increase also benefits the Leafs in the trade market
by driving a spike into the heart of any planned offer sheets. Boston is in a much
more comfortable situation to match any Dougie Hamilton offer, considering they
also have the summer overage to work with and Chicago is in an
even better situation with Saad and Kruger. While both will still shed some
salary, the pressure is off and they can be more selective about who they move,
and this probably benefits a team like the Leafs looking to be sellers.

Finally, there’s the cap floor. This never really applies to
the Leafs, but it puts a team like Arizona $18.3M under it.
Nashville and Buffalo are also comfortably under, and other teams like New
Jersey, Winnipeg are notably under as well. Particularly in Arizona’s case
there is a need to get to that floor, and with a lackluster free agent crop,
the way to get there is through trades. The kicker for the Leafs is that teams
in this situation are generally looking to acquire contracts where the cap hit
is higher than the salary, but thanks to Claude Loiselle’s buyout proof
contracts, the Leafs have no one who fits that bill.  The good news is, there are plenty of teams
around the league who will try to dump contracts in Arizona, and we can hope
that they’ll decide squander their new found cap space by trading for a Leaf.

With the $2.4M increase applied to all teams there’s an additional $72M around the league to spend. In previous years we’ve seen the Leafs rush out on July 1st to spend their share before the West Coast GMs have woken up. This go around it would be nice to see the Leafs use this increase as the wiggle room they need to right their ship. Move out players on longer term deals and/or ones that have a high market value and attempt to take on deals no longer than 3 years, so when the Leafs need to start addressing expiring entry level contracts, they won’t be pigeonholed into offering bridge deals or have the opportunity to begin adding players who can provide an opportunity to expedite their chances of winning.

Looking long term with this news, it seems like we are again
on that long walk towards a labour disagreement as the NHLPA’s escrow amount
increases and NHL teams begin to complain about lack of profits due to the high
cost of labour, but that’s an issue for another day. Right now, it’s important
to focus on how this could get Lupul, Phaneuf, and Bozak out of Toronto. 

  • SEER

    Thanks for the info. .Jon… I’m finding conflicting Cap numbers around the web, but I think some people aren’t aware that Kozun, McKegg & Lindstrom have all left the family…

  • STAN

    REPEATING: It makes SO much sense to negotiate a Kessel trade with Arizona for the following reasons.

    1. Phoenix, like most non-traditional hockey markets, loves flash. Phil is the epitome of flash.

    2. They also love speed. Check.

    3. American “fans” are always complaining about lack of goal scoring. Phil scores plenty of goals, many of which are spectacular.

    4. Arizona needs to draw more than just snowbirds into their arena. Phil’s presence could help build a local fanbase.

    5. They. Have. Cap room. At $18M+ in room Phil’s hit still leaves them $10M short.

    Given all of that, and the fact Phil and Tyler Bozak are best buddies, perhaps Bozak’s $4.2M makes sense for the Coyotes.

    Thus, if I’m a part of Shanahan’s team I’m doing everything in my power to convince the Coyotes that Phil AND Tyler make perfect sense. I wouldn’t even ask for all that much in return.

    Just make it happen!.

    • CMpuck

      If we landed 3OA could also open up all kinds of possibilities to move down. At the end of the day getting any two of Strome, Provorov, Hanifin or Marner would be great.

      Also would open up possibilities to make a larger deal with Phaneuf.

      This week is going to fun, usually I’m cringing at how bad the Leafs are going to f up on draft day, for all the cynicism of last season, this is the most exciting time to be a Maple Leaf internet fanboy since drafting Rielly.

    • Hi Stan! Cat Silverman here.

      I moved to Phoenix this past January. I would prefer if Phil doesn’t follow me, unless it’s to take on Mike Smith. I’m already dealing with things that make me really stressed, like 43C temperatures every single day and what seems to be a Gila Monster guarding my mailbox so I can never check it.

      Hard pass. But if they take Bozak that would make all kinds of sense, because they have two way forwards to play with him and it’s better than bringing back Antoine Vermette.

      Also, the local fanbase is actually fairly fine. If we’re sending him to bring in fans, send him to Carolina. They have a Stanley Cup and drew a smaller crowd than ARI last year 🙂

  • SEER

    Phaneuf to any team.., we eat a third of his salary..,
    for someone who can actually skate backwards….. and a bag of pucks.. LOL!

    EDIT: I guess since I am new in here, I should explain that my use of “LOL” .., means that I am joking…

    Yes.. I think that Dion is really, really bad at skating backwards.. , but.., if he would spend the whole summer with Underhill and really work at it, he could get a lot better.. A week or two isn’t going to make much difference, though.. He has to put the time in… BUT.., at 30 years of age.. and having spent 10 years in the NHL already, he is “coming across” like he doesn’t think that he needs to improve that much…

    I was a D-man in my younger years… and a much smaller one than Dion…, but if you couldn’t skate backwards faster than all the forwards on the team, you didn’t get to earn the D-position for very long… This point has always perturbed me, about Dion…

  • Gary Empey

    I am starting to get uneasy about all this “before the draft” trade hype. Is the media blowing this up all out of proportion ?

    Are the GM’s really saying ” Yes we are interested in making a trade as long as it’s one-sided in our favour ?

  • Gary Empey

    Some organizations that must get themselves above the cap floor.

    The Arizona Coyotes, Nashville Predators, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are all below the $52.8 million threshold, although that number should dwindle quickly as free agency begins July 1.

  • CMpuck

    Here is a trade thought I would like to get some feedback on.
    Kessel and the 24th to the Flyers for Couturier and the 7th pick plus we take Lecavalier
    Philly gets Kessel for the next 3 years at 3.5 million after dumping Vinny’s contract..

  • CMpuck

    Bernier and Kadri = $11 M ? Bernier $4.5 .
    So you’re offering $6.5 M to the Troubled Child ? I know, high end, right? For the sake of ML fans, I do hope you are very wrong.

  • SEER

    I don’t see how that Philly trade is good for the Leafs.

    If were taking Lecavalier as a dump I want more than just the 7th and Couturier for Kessel, and why would Toronto have to add their 24th?

    Couturier or Brayden Schenn, PHI 7th and 29th plus Vinny sounds more likely – Young roster player, two firsts and a salary dump.