Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa / USA TODAY Sports

How does McDavid fit into the Leafs’ 2026-27 cap situation?

Connor McDavid is not happy to be playing for the Edmonton Oilers.

We don’t have a source, but like, c’mon. They’re going to miss the playoffs again and just paid to make their support cast worse. Also they traded for the guy who broke his collarbone.

So as long as McDavid doesn’t relent himself to eternal hell in Edmonton, let’s take a look at the Leafs’ projected roster when McDavid’s contract expires after 2025-2026, and he can pull a Tavares and sign in Toronto:

Still here:  Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Travis Dermott, Morgan Rielly

Gone: Patrick Marleau, Connor Brown, Par Lindholm, Frederik Gauthier, Igor Ozhiganov, Nikita Zaitsev, Garret Sparks, Ron Hainsey, Tyler Ennis

?: Jake Gardiner, Andreas Johnsson, John Tavares,  Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen, Frederik Andersen, Trevor Moore

Probable Marlies to graduate: Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren

Anyone else: look, if we haven’t mentioned them they probably don’t matter that much. This is a hypothetical exercise about an NHL team seven years in the future.

? Matthews Nylander
? Tavares Marner
? ? ?
? ? ?

And the defence looking like:

Rielly Liljegren
Dermott ?
Sandin ?

Let’s add in some hypothetical dollar values. (These are just cap hits for McDavid’s first season. Anything else you’ll find behind a paywall)

Marner and Matthews? $11 million each. They won’t sign this identical deal in real life, but heck, let’s give it to them.

Tavares? This would be the year after his current deal expires. Takes a paycut at $8 million per over three years, considering he will be, you know, 34 at the time. After that, he’ll just sign one year deals until he retires.

Dermott and Rielly? Rielly will unfortunately for him be out of his prime and out of his current deal, so let’s say the Leafs rope him in at $7 million per year,  but the Leafs negotiate a sweetheart deal with Rielly so he’s only making $6 million to play Norris-calibre hockey.

Sandin and Liljegren: 5 million each. Why not?

Nylander: Wanting another payday on his hall of fame career, he finally ups his salary to $9 million on his final big contract.

11+11+8+7+6+5+5+9. That Math had absolutely no rhyme or reason to it but like, give me some leeway.

That’s $62 million tied up in those players.

McDavid? Well, let’s be conservative and assume the Leafs can sign him for $20 million per year over 7 years.

So $82 million tied up in 9 players seems like a lot, but consider the salary cap has risen by about $3 million on average each of the last five years, the Salary cap in 2026 should be at about… uh… let’s say $100 million dollars.

If you wanted to sign McDavid to a current comparable cap hit to his current contract, he’d be making about $16.67 million.

So under this very not scientific exercise, the Leafs could sign McDavid as a UFA, keep most of their main core around, and then filter out the roster with random prospects and cheap contracts, as long as they can do so for about $20 million.

You couldn’t mess up a situation that easy, could you?

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  • Matmarwill

    I would guess that mcdavid will be in the 14m aav range in seven years. That said, I can see Tavares, kapanen, Johnsson, Kadri and Moore hanging around for let’s say 20aav, and 42 aav for mmnd+r. So mcdavid brings it upto 76maav. With a 100m cap, that leaves 26m for 2 goaltenders, 4 dmen and 6 forwards. Averaging 2m each. I doubt that this is a recipe for success, since a decent goalie will cost over 6m aav by then. The prospect pipeline would have to be in full tilt. My guess is that some of the core would need to be unloaded if the leafs are to remain in contention, unless, of course, this core keeps the buds in contention the whole time.