Leafs win Jared Cowen dispute, locking in buyout

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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY SPORTS

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.


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 waivedclaimed 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.

  • Tigon

    There were a lot of fans that wanted the Leafs to draft Cowen. I’m sure glad they took Kadri instead!

    Cowen just never had the foot speed, more like a Gudbranson type (or Schenn 2.0), and those injuries ravaged his career early.

  • Albertan Leaf Fan!

    I honestly just feel bad for Jared. I don’t think the way the team treated him was far at all. Though I understand wanting the buyout, and the cap space, I think they should have at least let play one game with the team last spring while tank was in full thrust. I just hope that all these little disputes don’t prevent future UFAs and RFAs from wanting to sing here.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Like you I feel bad for Cowen. It can’t be much fun for a young hockey player to have a career ending injury. Cowen is only 25 years old. I don’t think the Leafs mistreated him though. He really was Ottawa’s responsibility. After arriving in Toronto he underwent a through medical checkup. The conclusion, he was unlikely to play hockey at the NHL level again. The dispute about the buyout was unfortunate. It is one of the uglier sides of the business. Good teams try to find a job somewhere in the organization for someone in Cowen’s situation.

    • Tigon

      LTIR isn’t free cap space and has a roll over effect I believe. So if the Leafs keep the hit on the roster they aren’t eating into next year’s cap, which is a day by day calculation. So even if they had to LTIR Lupul or Horton it is best to wait until you actually need the space.

      This is also why we see teams “send” a guy down because it builds up roster money when he isn’t on the roster. An example is when someone like the Blackhawks can add a $5M player at the deadline and you wonder where this cap space came from, it’s about where your caphits were +/- the cap over the duration of year.

      I think Jeff or someone at PPP wrote a “LTIR isn’t free money” article.

      • espo

        close, LTIR gives a team the ability to go over the cap by the amount of the contract in a given year.

        The problem the leafs would have would be rookie bonus overages which wouldn’t be able to be claimed in LTIR relief. Those would roll over into next year without sufficient cap space left over in 2016-17.

          • espo

            no problem,

            It seems odd but most people thing LTIR is a way to open up cap space, rather it is what it says it is, relief. The ability to go over the cap. Unfortunately you can only go over the cap by the remaining amount on the contract and can’t bank space from it.

            So if one was to put a 4 million dollar player on LTIR with 20 games remaining that would actually only open up a 1 million dollar exemption for the team to play with. LTIR relief only helps if you’re spending to the cap to begin with. (which was what most critics of the Horton acquisition had a problem with)