The Maple Leafs’ road to cap compliance

Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
9 months ago
$3,206,450. That’s how much CapFriendly is saying the Leafs are over the salary cap. That number isn’t ideal but it doesn’t warrant the amount of concern some are attaching to it either. Sure, Ilya Samsonov still needs to be signed and that’s why it’s worth taking a look at how the Leafs can get to a comfortable place for that to happen. And why it doesn’t need to involve trading William Nylander (nor should it.)
The obvious starting point is that there still needs to be something figured out when it comes to Matt Murray. If Matt Murray is going on LTIR that immediately gives the Leafs $4,687,500 of relief. That doesn’t seem to be the case and Murray was medically cleared to be available in the playoffs. If Toronto has to go the buyout route it only works out to $4M of relief. There’s also the trade option, but paying a premium to avoid a not so bad buyout seems a bit silly.
We’ll play this conservatively and say the Leafs go the buyout route and that would put the Leafs at $793k under the salary cap.
The next thing that needs to be considered is that CapFriendly is including Nick Robertson on the Leafs Injured Reserve and thus counting against the salary cap in their numbers. Given that Robertson doesn’t require waivers it is easy to exclude him from salary cap and taking him out of the picture (for now) the Leafs now have $1.59M in cap space.
Strictly doing this from a start of the year perspective, the Leafs have two other players on their roster that don’t require waivers: Pontus Holmberg and Matthew Knies. Putting them down, at least for day one would put the Leafs at $3.315M in cap space and that is starting to at least look like a number the Leafs could be working with in arbitration for Ilya Samsonov as a short term solution. That number could go up to $4.006M if the Leafs decided that Sam Lafferty and Conor Timmins should be waived in order to make additional space and then the Leafs go with cheaper options in their bottom six.
That’s starting to look like Samsonov cap hit and all for the price of gambling on Timmins and/or Lafferty being claimed. And remember there is potentially another $687k there if Murray can be put on the Long Term Injured Reserve.
Now all of that being said, the Leafs could still be thinking trade. If the William Nylander negotiations are truly not going anywhere that might be what is the Leafs best interest as having Nylander walk to free agency for nothing would be devastating.
The other asset that might be in the conversation is TJ Brodie, who represents a $5M cap hit but also one of the Leafs best defensemen. It was ridiculous to be talking about Brodie as a buyout but less so to consider him as a trade option as he too is on an expiring contract and teams are handing out $4M+ contracts to guys like Ryan Graves, Radko Gudas, Shayne Gostisbehere and John Klingberg. There should be a market for Brodie.
Given that it’s July 4th and teams can exceed the salary cap by 10% ($8.35M) the Leafs don’t have to rush anything. They’ve got $5M in space that can be used on Samsonov. It is comforting to know that the Leafs don’t need to go big for cap reasons, but with a couple of months to kill before training camp a bit of trade speculation won’t hurt either.

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