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The Leafs don’t even hit the ice for another six or so hours, but they’ve already picked up their first win of the day. After months of concern and an arbitration hearing, it’s finally been confirmed that their buyout of Jared Cowen was, indeed, legitimate and that he’s off the books.
TOR wins its arbitration case vs. Jared Cowen. He remains bought out.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 7, 2016
As a result, Cowen will continue to count for a cap hit of -$650,000 this year, and $750,000 next year. The alternative was a cap hit of $3.1 million this season; something that could be easily negated by placing one of Nathan Horton, Stephane Robidas, or even himself on Long-Term Injured reserve, but would put the Leafs back at $0 in cap space, making end-of-season rookie bonuses much more difficult. With this in mind, Toronto can continue to shed salary throughout the year to make room for said potential overages, or simply let them spill into a 2017/18 season that is expected to be light on the cap.
Perhaps more importantly, this also takes a contract off the books, putting the Leafs at 48 of 50. This means, for example, that if they were to sign Karri Ramo in the next few weeks, they wouldn’t be fully against the limit. Or, that they can take on a quantity-for-quality trade, though given the depth they have up front, the latter still remains more likely.
Toronto currently stands at approximately $970,000 in projected cap space.
We’ve written about this situation so many times that I’m just going to copy and paste the remainder of this article from the one I wrote six weeks go when arbitration began:
Cowen was originally acquired from the Ottawa Senators in February, at which point we pointed out within minutes that a buyout option would be ideal. The Leafs cleared him as fit to play and attempted to move him before the deadline, but found no suitors. To ensure that he wouldn’t get re-injured, Cowen was shut down for the season by Leafs management.
That’s where the situation became murky. Cowen underwent surgery on some nagging hip ailments, and after being waived, claimed that his buyout was impossible with him being unfit to play. Which leads to this week, where an arbitrator decides whether Cowen’s inability was caused by his own decision to undergo surgery or whether the Leafs overstated his health.