After a day of unexpected moves, trades and demotions to the minors, the Maple Leafs salary cap situation is very different to what it was 24 hrs ago. By this afternoon, it will be solidified, and we’ll understand the roster the Leafs will play out the remaining regular season with. The salary cap disappears once the playoffs start.
Before the trading began, the Leafs were well over the upper limit of the salary cap and using the LTIR pool provided by Jake Muzzin’s injury. Compounding this is Jack Campbell on IR, and the need, therefore, to have three goalies on the roster.
Players on IR count against the salary cap, but not the 23-man limit. That limit is gone as of this morning, so all that matters now is the cap.
Teams may not remove players from the roster — even on off days — in a way that gets them below the correct number of skaters and two goalies, so there was some room for cap maneuvers, but not a lot. This is why Kyle Clifford was waived to be assigned to the AHL. His $1 million in cap hit needed to come off the roster, and there are no other waiver exempt forwards to move after Nick Robertson was sent down.
When the waivings and demotions were the news, it appeared, that the Leafs might get below the cap and out of LTIR space. They came close, but they didn’t make it, and they don’t have any meaningful banked cap space to use, so at this point, using up the LTIR space seems like the best bet. Remember, LTIR has to be used dollar-for-dollar on incoming cap hits. What that means for the long term prospects of Muzzin is unclear, mainly because his health is unclear. Remember, the Leafs figured out how to get Frederik Andersen back on the roster last season when they needed to, so they can do what they need to this year.
Here’s the roster and their cap cost this morning before any new moves are made:
Cap Location on Deadline Day Morning
|Retained on Phil Kessel||$1,200,000|
|Unburiable amount on Petr Mrázek||$2,675,000|
As is obvious, this roster is over the cap and they are using LTIR. What’s interesting is that without Mrázek there at all, the Leafs can squeak under the upper limit of $81.5 million without using LTIR and could reactivate Jake Muzzin. A little more breathing room can be made by sending down Timothy Liljegren. Once Jack Campbell is healthy, the Leafs could remove Erik Källgren. That would allow them to take whatever extra skaters they wanted on road trips.
This is a workable plan just on its face with no other changes, and the only difficulty comes in that trading Mrázek seems impossible right now. You never know what happens on deadline day, but at the moment, I can’t see a path to Jake Muzzin coming back off of LTIR soon.
If the Leafs are content with that, they have some number in the $2 to $3 million range in LTIR pool they can use to add more players. If their endgame is to get Muzzin back on the roster once Campbell is healthy and the extra goalie can be removed, then they need to remove someone else from this roster.
This current structure is 13 forwards and seven defenders, so there’s not a lot of room to remove without having to add back a cheaper player and losing the benefit of the removal.
Even assuming all three players the Leafs have on waivers clear, which I think is extremely likely, the path from 2 pm to 3 pm is murky. The roster as it stands would have the Leafs play Källgren and Säteri, two non-NHL starters, for the rest of the period that Jack Campbell is out. If that’s how things stand later today, the most important next addition for the Leafs is going to be a healthy Campbell whenever that happens. The need for Jake Muzzin to return better than he’s been all year has been mitigated, which is a big improvement overall. But for all it’s cleverness, the goalie solution really isn’t a solution, it’s a delaying tactic.
Assume that $2-3 million is the AAV of a player the Leafs can add. Who do you want?
What position do you want the Leafs to add?
A better goalie
A depth forward
489 total votes