Maple Leafs compare favourably around the NHL when it comes to their cap situation

Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
Things don’t seem to be going too great at the moment in Leafs land and it’s in the spirit of optimism that it’s worth taking time to appreciate that not everything is bad. In fact, compared to many of the teams in the playoffs this season the Leafs find themselves in a pretty favourable cap situation.
Recently CapFriendly rolled over their numbers to reflect the 2023-24 season, with the projected cap of $83.5M. They’ve also projected a number of long term injury reserve players that will provide relief beyond this season. Taking a look at that straightforward data as well as taking a closer look at what openings exist on the rosters, and what is required as far as replacements and re-signings, the Leafs are around the middle of the pack for the league but are one of the top five teams when it comes to already being a playoff team and having cap space. Considering what the Devils need to take care of signing wise, it’s probably even fairer to put the Leafs in the top 3 or 4. Although the Hurricanes being able to load up should scare a lot of people.
Here’s the table (playoff teams highlighted in red)
The Bruins being a mess is a feel good story if I’ve ever seen one and the Lightning once again in a situation where they’ll have to make some difficult choices is encouraging as well.
What is also fairly encouraging from a Leafs perspective is that this is before even determining the steps that will be taken to move on from Matt Murray’s contract. The numbers just reflect him being in the AHL, not bought out or traded.
With the potential additions of players like McMann and Holmberg to the Leafs fourth line, it likely means the Leafs can stretch their dollars further on a couple of top nine forwards and potentially another solid defenseman. Any potential Samsonov raise could likely be covered by a Matt Murray buyout so it is very easy to see the path to upgrades from a dollar perspective. It’s just a matter of having faith in a new GM to execute that smoothly while not digging a hole for the future contracts that will impact the Leafs in 2024-25 if the core is sticking around.
It is also very possible there will be more money to work with than initially expected…
Given highly influential teams like the Bruins and Rangers being under a bit more of a cap crunch for 2023-24 it seems that there could be a path forward to inflate the cap more without a negative impact on escrow for the players.
The bigger threats when it comes to spending and improving the roster this season might not come from the current playoff teams, but those pushing to find their way in. Detroit, Montreal, and Buffalo all having significant cap space is something to keep an eye on as they could see this summer as the start of their window. While not in the Atlantic, the fact that Chicago has a ridiculous amount of cap space and now a star player that will attract free agents to their team is going to create an interesting situation when it comes to an already limited free agent market as well.
The Leafs might find themselves in a situation where they have the money to spend but not an opportunity to spend it wisely. Perhaps all the more reason to consider strong player valuation GM candidates like Pridham or Tulsky in their GM search.
Salary Data from CapFriendly.com

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