Let’s Talk About Trading Joffrey Lupul

There’s no tip-toeing around it – Joffrey Lupul’s contract is ugly as sin. With a cap hit of $5.25M for two more seasons, it’s the last of the large, unwanted contracts that the Toronto Maple Leafs have to deal with. Lupul is still scoring – 11 in 46 games so far this season – so he’s by definition still a 20-goal guy. At 32-years old, though, Lupul’s mobility is beginning to fail him, and he’s looking less and less like a consistent contributor. As such, his contract is practically immovable.

Note that I said practically, as dealing Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators may have changed things. One of the most shocking factors of the Phaneuf trade was that Toronto retained zero of his salary, giving the Leafs a significant amount of flexibility going forward. And we already know that no contract is immovable to the Leafs if they are able to leverage their financial might. See: David Clarkson. All Toronto has to do is eat some of that Joffrey Lupul salary.

For those unfamiliar with salary retention, each team is allowed to retain salary on up to three traded contracts. Currently, the Leafs retain salary on two contracts – $200K on Carl Gunnarsson’s contract (traded to St. Louis, coming off the books this summer) and $1.2M on Phil Kessel’s deal (traded to Pittsburgh, on the books until 2020). That leaves one more retention slot at Toronto’s disposal; a slot that most had earmarked for Dion Phaneuf’s eventual trade.

TLN’s Jon Steitzer earlier this week discussed the possibility of buying out Lupul’s contract, since all of us here apparently (and desperately) want him gone before 2018. If Lupul were to be bought out this coming offseason, Toronto would be hit with a four-year cap penalty ($1.5M, $3M, $1.5M and $1.5M). If they could handle putting up with him for one more season, his buyout penalty the following offseason would be spread over two years instead ($2.75M then $1.75M). If you hate the idea of the four-year buyout penalty, but also hate the idea of keeping Lupul around past this season, then the salary retention option is probably for you.

Think of it like this… Nobody in their right mind would trade for two more years of Joffrey Lupul at $5.25M per season. But what if Joffrey Lupul only costs, say, $3M? Someone probably bites, especially if they don’t have to give up any significant assets. Trading Lupul this offseason and retaining a large chunk of salary (in this example, $2.25M) essentially turns into an immediate two-year cap penalty for Toronto. 


To me, that salary retention option sounds a hell of a lot better than any of the buy-out penalty options. These are the years when Toronto is best able to handle the retained salary burden. In the following seasons, they’ll have to sign a number of their youngsters to new contracts and before they’re looking to add pieces to an improving lineup. And with Gunnarsson’s contract up this offseason, Toronto will gain back that slot, giving them another bullet in the chamber after retaining on Kessel and Lupul. Taking a hit now to rid yourself of Lupul’s salary and open up roster spaces for young players makes a lot of fiscal sense, assuming you’re ready to move on from the Joffrey Lupul era in Toronto.

*All Salary Numbers Courtesy of GeneralFanager.com

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  • CMpuck

    Of course, you have to consider that in order to dump the Lupul contract, you must consider that the Leafs would likely have to add in either a draft pick or mid-level prospect. Unlike Phaneuf or Kessel, who were serviceable top-level NHLers, albeit, overpaid, Lupul is overpaid and rarely healthy enough to contribute. While retention may be cheaper money-wise, is giving up a prospect or pick worth the difference when that is added to the equation?

    • Quote
      Lupul is overpaid and rarely healthy enough to contribute.

      It’s my understanding that when a players on IR,
      his salary is paid by his compensation insurance and not the team-so on a financial level there isn’t a great financial risk.

      When Lupul is healthy he can still be an effective player offensively.So I could easily see that Lupul with salary retention would be a better option then others who will be available at the deadline.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Smart piece. Yes, this is the way to go. Use the near-term slack in the Leafs’ budget to move Lupul. The object is to clear a roster spot for either a developing prospect or a UFA one could trade. So, trading Lupul and paying the price now in order to build for the future is wise. He’s actually a decent (if overpaid) player when he’s healthy, so some team in the hunt could put him to use.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I’d hardly say that 0.30 ppg or a 0.79 P/60 (last behind Grabner out of 10 forwards on the Leafs with more than 500 minutes played this season) is hardly characteristic of an “effective player offensively”. When we got Brewer (3.875mil) for Holzer, the Ducks threw in a 5th. When we traded Liles ($3.875mil) for Gleason (who we were led to believe was an upgrade on Liles), we got Dennis Robertson. I know: Dennis Robertson who? Still, this goes to show you that the team with the perceive “dump” in the trade has to give something else up. And, like I’ve already shown, Lupul has a worse contract than both of these trades and quickly diminishing stats. Maybe we can throw in our own version of Dennis Robertson to make sure we don’t give up anything else of true value to the build. Just because we’ve hit a couple home runs lately, I don’t think it is unreasonable to assume the Leafs might fall back to the mean (come on, we are stats people, right?) and actually have to make one trade where they get the bad end of the deal for once. If I’m wrong, awesome, but I’m not about to assume the Leafs will always win each trade with this new (and I admit, awesome) management group.

  • CMpuck

    While I do think that Lupul is probably on his way out in at least two years, I don’t think a buyout should or trade will be the way.

    It is only two years, a far cry from the Phaneuf or Clarkson contract lengths that the Leafs would be anchored with and we still be NHL vets to dot the lineup.

    Regardless of the cap hit, I do like Lupul as a person and someone many fans would agree genuinely still likes being in Toronto despite the poor team it has turned into.

    Two more years isn’t the end of the world or death to our cap, if he stays I’m okay. If he is traded, all the better. A buyout shouldn’t be the way out though.

    P.S. We still have Gleason’s $1.33M buyout on the books as well for another 2 years!

  • he’ll be stephane robidas’d soon enough or pronger’d. we all know this will happen real soon. he can join horton and whoever we acquired to relieve cap space on this team… he’s one more injury away from loophole lou intervening and retiring him.