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Becoming deadline brokers is a low risk strategy for the Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
27 days ago
At a quick glance there are few teams in a worse salary cap situation than the Leafs at the moment. Capfriendly reports Toronto has just $34,999 to work with via their LTIR space. It’s accurate but also misleading when you consider the Leafs presently have two players on the injured reserve (which still counts against the cap) and three reserve players on their roster. A barebones Leafs roster at the trade deadline could leave the team with either just north or south of $4M of LTIR cap relief to work with at the trade deadline and while that is handy if the Leafs are in a position where they want to go for it this season, it is also a nice situation if they want to use that space to help other teams broker their deals.
We’ve seen the Leafs often in the position of being the team paying for help but in this situation the Leafs could be in a position to help others for a similar service. A good example is the Leafs paying a 4th to the Minnesota Wild last season to eat $1.875m of cap space. The Leafs have all three of their salary retention spaces available.
The Leafs could also find themselves in a situation where they can bring in an actual usable player for pennies on the dollar.
The Oilers presently have $1.12M in cap space and that is definitely a barrier to Edmonton adding in what is being billed as Ken Holland’s last run. The Leafs could certainly use a defenceman and the Oilers could certainly use $2.75M in cap space. Moving Brett Kulak in exchange for (let’s say Martin Jones, an upgrade over Calvin Pickard) the Oilers have the opportunity to demote Pickard, and bring up Broberg as a replacement for Kulak and net close to $2M in cap space. The deal certainly benefits the Leafs as well as Kulak is a decent enough bottom pairing option who is under contract and prevents them from potentially paying to acquire someone who might not be significantly better.
Not completely different from that Oilers scenario, the Leafs could potentially look at opportunities to rid themselves of longer term contracts in exchange for higher priced short term deals. The Vancouver Canucks are very much wanting to make a splash this year and barrier to being able to do that is the $6M cap hit of Tyler Myers. The Canucks could move their short term $6M cap hit for a longer term but lower cap hit in David Kampf to instantly create $3.6M of cap space that can help them now and given Vancouver’s comfort with making trades they can sort out the Kampf contract on their own time as well.
In the short term the Leafs would also have a physical, shot blocking, right shot, “chaos giraffe” to test out on their blueline. I can appreciate that Myers isn’t a player that many Leafs fans will be excited about but the Canucks do have another option in Andrei Kuzmenko, that probably would require the Leafs adding but gives them a player under contract with better upside. He won’t help the Leafs defence but is a decent secondary scoring option.
The Canucks and Oilers are just a couple of the competitive teams in tight to the cap heading into the trade deadline. The Avalanche, the Stars, and Kings (if they don’t completely combust) could all benefit from cap relief. The Golden Knights will be dependent on who is returning before or after the start of the playoffs, and while it seems unlikely, the Bruins are another team in that boat (not going to happen).
All of these teams will find a way of doing what they have to do regardless of whether the Leafs help them or not so the idea of Toronto bolstering their playoff competition argument isn’t particularly strong (although I can still appreciate helping Boston being off limits.)
The Leafs using the cap space this way does potentially create a situation where they get some new players who could benefit them and if there isn’t an appetite to spend assets on rentals this season (the rental market looks pretty soft, by the way) Toronto has the opportunity to put themselves in a better situation for the future.

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