During the Headlines segment during the intermission of Saturday night’s Maple Leafs and Senators game, Chris Johnston reported that Jake Muzzin and the Leafs had agreed on a four-year contract extension, though pen wouldn’t hit paper until after the trade deadline.
Apparently, not all of the deals are hammered out just yet, but there’s a deal in principle that’ll keep Muzzin in Toronto for another four seasons beyond this one. We don’t yet know what the cap hit would be on this deal, but it’s been speculated to come in at around $5.5 million annually, with a front-loaded salary to make the deal movable at the end, if necessary.
The reason the Leafs and Muzzin have to wait until after the deadline is due to an oddity in the salary cap known as Tagged Payroll Room.
Under Article 50.5 of the 2013 NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, any team that is trying to re-sign a player to a multi-year contract after December 1 needs to have “Payroll Room.” Basically, Payroll Room is the difference between the cap ceiling and the total amount of all Average Annual Values (“AAV”) and bonuses for the team’s one-way contract players, any deferred bonuses applicable during the current season, any buyout amounts, any outstanding offer sheets, any qualifying offers, or any money earned from two-way players while those players are playing in the NHL.
It’s incredibly complicated but what it ultimately comes down to is that teams can only commit a certain amount of money to their team the following season, and that amount that they can commit increases at the beginning of March by 10 percent. Waiting to sign Muzzin until that time would also give Kyle Dubas as much flexibility as possible at the trade deadline to acquire players who might have term on their contracts beyond this season.
With Muzzin now “signed” long-term, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Morgan Rielly. The Leafs currently have Rielly, Muzzin, and Rasmus Sandin as their top three left-handed defenders but a shortage of depth on the right side. Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci will surely walk as free agents, leaving Justin Holl, Travis Dermott on his off-side, and Timothy Liljegren as the team’s right-handed defencemen.
Given how well Sandin has played in Rielly’s absence, there’s reason to assume that the Leafs could explore moving the veteran defender in order to fill a need on the right side of the blueline. That said, Rielly is having a down season this year, and trading him in the off-season would be selling at a low point of value.