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The rising cap, Mike Gillis as a fit for the Leafs, and McCabe’s comments: Leaflets

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
2 months ago
Another wild week for the Leafs. It seems strange to say that they’ve won their last two games because it certainly doesn’t feel that way (but more on that later.) A wild week for the Leafs has also been accompanied by some interesting news at the league level, so we’ll start with some of that.

The salary cap is likely to rise by $5M next summer

Just a reminder that the Leafs could have had William Nylander at $10M last summer and everyone and their dog was screaming overpayment. Admittedly when I ran the numbers it was evidently an overpayment, but the conclusion was it that it was a comfortable overpayment, I was just wrong that they should have been in a rush to pay it. I guess hindsight is 20/20 after all.
Anyways, this salary cap news stems from a recent Marty Walsh interview by Frank Seravalli:
The first thing that comes to mind is that it is an exciting time to be Darren Ferris or Lewis Gross, but it also comes with the realization the Maple Leafs shouldn’t have many barriers to keeping the band together if they want to. The Leafs are also in a good situation next summer to build a supporting cast around the Leafs core, something they’ve struggled with a lot in recent years. There will be plenty of contracts that catch up to the bad deals for Ryan Reaves and David Kampf and there will be some interesting new trends emerging in free agency as a result. I’d expect a lot more one year mercenary deals like Treliving signed Bertuzzi and Klingberg to, and smart GMs will be very aware of when the CBA is set to expire and won’t carry any questionable contracts beyond that date.
With the NHL enjoying gambling revenue, having a new Canadian TV rights contract coming up in a few years, and many interested parties when it comes to expansion, things look good for continued salary cap growth. The only thing that stands in their way are political, economic, environmental, and biological factors, but what are the odds of that happening again, right? Right? RIGHT?
While the Leafs are a have team and will spend to the cap no matter what it is set at, it will be interesting to see how the have-nots do with climbing cap floor. While the talk has been of expansion, it will be interesting to see if we are heading for a relocation era in the NHL.

Mike Gillis is available, should the Leafs be interested?

From Frank Seravalli:
NHL Players’ Association executive director Marty Walsh revealed on Frankly Speaking that union consultant and former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis will be departing the NHLPA when his contract expires at the end of December. Gillis, who was spearheading the players union’s group licensing approach since July 2021, was a finalist for the executive director position that ultimately went to Walsh.
“When his contract is over, it’s over,” Walsh said in an interview at the Global Series in Stockholm, Sweden. “He was brought in to look at some business stuff and that contract is going to expire in the next few weeks. That will be it for him.”
Last spring after Kyle Dubas was let go from the Maple Leafs the drum I was banging was that Mike Gillis should be the new GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That never happened and no matter your opinion of Brad Treliving, it is rare for a GM to be one and done for seasons with a team (unless you are Paul Fenton.)
I never really liked Mike Gillis but the fact that Canucks fans seemed to have a lot of respect for him was never lost on me. He doesn’t seem like a particularly fun guy but he navigated Vancouver to a Cup Final and I can appreciate that he doesn’t seem to want to make any friends along the way and that he’s survived in hockey despite that.
The NHLPA cutting ties with Gillis isn’t a criticism of him either. In a union keeping guys who were gunning for the leadership position around seems like a potential hindrance to moving things forward. The NHLPA already proved that during the early 2005 lockout. Walsh and Gillis parting ways amicably or not isn’t a reason for doubting either one of their abilities, just a recognition that each is a threat to the other.
So that’s a whole lot of preamble for what is meant to be a very short “leaflet” thought. The point is that the Leafs are very likely in a year where the continued employment of Brendan Shanahan is something that will be debated by the MLSE board. In the event that Shanahan finds himself out at the end of the season (or even before) the person that the Maple Leafs should strongly consider for his replacement is Mike Gillis.
Gillis has a mind for the business side as well as the Hockey Operations side and his experience with the union, as an agent, and as a GM certainly makes him seem like a potential expert and one that can help guide Brad Treliving and set a new organizational direction if it deemed that the Maple Leafs need to try something new.
It’s probably to early to be tossing this out there, but I want to get this take on the record as I think it has a real possibility of happening.

Jake McCabe’s “it’s a hard league” line

I get it. A win is a win is a win. The Maple Leafs are 12-6-3 and no one is going to take those points away from them. You might not like how they’ve got there but Toronto is in a good position considering that they certainly could be playing better. The sky isn’t falling, but I get it, there isn’t a lot of reasons to feel confident that this year will be any different come playoff time.
It’s that last part that makes it so this quote doesn’t sit right with me:
Yes, the NHL is hard league and whether those points come from hard work or from picking the right three guys in the shootout, you take those points. That said, it’s a hard league and the players are professionals, and last time I checked most careers call for a little bit of professional development and a bit of reflection on what can be improved even when things are going right. The Leafs have a 5-6 win/loss record in regulation, that is masked by the fact that they’ve gone 7-3 after both teams have picked up a point. Even more concerning is that the Leafs have relied on a 4-1 record in the shootout to be where they are in the standings. There’s nothing that says you can’t be happy to have the win, but some acknowledgement that the defence is not suffering just because Liljegren, Klingberg, and Giordano are injured but that it struggled before all that. Some acknowledgements that there have been inconsistent efforts from the forwards or that goaltending simply isn’t a strength is probably too much to ask for, but asking for the Leafs to not be so dismissive that they have areas to improve would be a reasonable thing to expect.
I’ll give McCabe the benefit of the doubt that since he was asked this after a 65 minute game where he played 24 minutes of it, he might have been exhausted and didn’t give the most nuanced response identifying all of his feelings about the current state of the Maple Leafs, but I will say that this coupled with comments from the Leafs coming out of the playoffs last season seem to be pointing to the team struggling with taking accountability and I find that concerning.
 

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