Another Cash vs. Cap Advantage for the Leafs

The Leafs have a number of financial advantages. Unfortunately cap space isn’t one of them. While that means the Leafs will be limited in the extent of moves they can make, that doesn’t mean they don’t have different avenues they can explore, and one of them might be using salary they can bury on the Marlies to their advantage. Maybe not exciting, but stick with me through this idea. It goes somewhere, I promise.

The basic notion here is that any contract under $1M that is buried in the minors doesn’t count against a team’s salary cap. You already knew that, but we’re really looking at some basic stuff here.

The second part is that many of those contracts that get sent to the minors are one way contracts, not two way deals. Again, a concept you already know, but that means if the player was slated to earn $1,000,000 in the NHL, they’ll earn $1,000,000 in the AHL as well, rather than a reduced salary that could range anywhere from $50k-$500k.

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Putting this together with the current state of NHL finances, these teams are having to pay these players. These non-roster players, who potentially have no chance of making a difference in the NHL beyond a few games of injury relief, and for cap strapped teams like Arizona, Ottawa even teams like Minnesota, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh that have stated they will have internal caps this year, trading expensive AHL salaries to the Leafs gives them more cash in their budget to spend on players they actually plan on using. The Leafs, of course, pick up some kind of incentive for taking on these contracts.

Here’s a small sampling of what I’m talking about. Below are players that haven’t made significant NHL contributions, are on one way contracts in 20-21, and are past the age of being considered prospects.

Christian Djoos Anaheim 25 D $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Ross Johnston NY Islanders 26 LW $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Christian Wolanin Ottawa 25 D $900,000 $1,000,000
Steven Kampfer Boston 31 D $800,000 $800,000
Brandon Pirri Vegas 29 F $775,000 $775,000
Jani Hakanpää Anaheim 28 D $750,000 $750,000
Anthony Stolarz Anaheim 26 G $750,000 $700,000
Dylan Sikura Chicago 25 F $750,000 $800,000
Calvin Pickard Detroit 28 G $750,000 $800,000
Andy Andreoff Philadelphia 29 F $750,000 $750,000
Nick Seeler Chicago 27 D $725,000 $750,000
Sam Carrick Anaheim 28 C $700,000 $700,000
Jean-Sébastien Dea Buffalo 26 C $700,000 $700,000
C.J. Smith Buffalo 25 LW $700,000 $700,000
Adam Clendening Columbus 27 D $700,000 $700,000
Josh Teves Vancouver 25 D $700,000 $700,000
Patrick Brown Vegas 28 F $700,000 $700,000
Tyrell Goulbourne Vegas 26 LW $700,000 $700,000

I mean, there are even a couple of names on there that might be mildly usable.

What do the Leafs get out of this?

Well, for teams tight on cash that might be interested in adding players like Kerfoot or Johnsson, offloading AHL money might be a way to have those teams bring in one of the Leafs players without Toronto having to absorb salary on the way back, making it easier to afford someone like Pietrangelo. This should also improve the return for the Leafs if they are doing a favour for the opposition at the same time.

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If this is a later in the offseason approach, it’s likely a chance for the Leafs to pick up some late round picks in the next draft by doing next to nothing. It’s also a chance to add some depth on the Marlies, which probably isn’t a bad thing.

It’s also possible that teams are looking at players on the Leafs who have two way contracts that they can bring in to save some money on their AHL rosters. Excluding the Leafs top prospects from that equation, the list of who might be available could be Adam Brooks, Teemu Kivihalme, Kristians Rubins, Joseph Duszak, and David Warsofsky. While a couple of those players might be usable for the Leafs, none of them are potential roadblocks to deals being completed.

In short. The Leafs need to spend some of that telecommunications money. Anywhere they can. With only 34 standard players contracts committed to for next season, they’ve got the opportunity to get creative here.

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