Cap Crunch?


The Leafs have added a bunch of new players. They’ve made some trades. They’ve retained most of their restricted free agents (no pressure, Spencer Abbott). But now Toronto is two months away from puck drop, and people remember the mess that they got themselves into last year. Are they on a crash course to do it again?

Maybe, but probably not.

The Current Situation

According to our handsome Nations Network friends at NHL Numbers, the Maple Leafs are currently $1.74 million over the Salary Cap. They’re currently spending $43 million on forwards, $21.844 million on defencemen, $5.2 million on goalies, $833,000 on Tim Gleason’s buyout, $512,000 on Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner’s performance bonus overage, and $200,000 from retaining Carl Gunnarsson.

How To “Fix It”

That sounds bad, right? I mean, you can’t play while over the Salary Cap! It’s in the Collective Bargaining Agreement! Well, there’s another thing you have to consider – you can’t dress six forward lines in a game either, unless you plan on having no defencemen. The overage comes with the assumption that the Leafs have 18 forwards on the team right now.

Training camp will ultimately decide who makes the team and who doesn’t, but we can make a couple of assumptions. First off, it appears that the Leafs won’t be icing pure enforcers this year. Frazer McLaren was sent down late in the season, and Colton Orr will probably join him. Sending them to the Marlies shaves $1.625 off the books, and brings the Leafs down to 16 forwards and $115,000 in overage.

The next step becomes a bit of a wildcard. Neither Matt Frattin or Carter Ashton are waiver exempt, and I don’t think the Leafs want to risk losing them for nothing. At the same time, recent signings may push them out of the lineup. I also see Trevor Smith as likely to go down, but have my doubts that a team will be quick to claim him.

Assuming that all three are waived (whether they clear or not is irrelevant), there’s a potential savings of $2.201 million, bringing the Leafs down to 13 forwards (I expect Troy Bodie to be the extra forward) and giving the Leafs $2 million in wiggle room.

This, of course, is without any potential trades being brought into the mix.

No Massive Rush

The process that the Leafs take to do this maneuvering can be done with more patience than last year. To be blunt, they’re closer to making it under while holding a massive surplus of roster players to shed off.

There’s still a benefit to getting under by a fair margin, however. Many will point to potential trade deadline acquisitions as the primary reason for this. However, this would require the Leafs to be very competitive at that point, which while not impossible, is unlikely.

More importantly, room should be left for bonus overages. A probable increase in Morgan Rielly’s minutes should give him more opportunity to max out his numbers, and the Leafs really don’t need to have another carry-over situation next year.

In any event, this is a pretty manageable situation, and it should be an afterthought by the end of training camp.

  • This is the Shanahan era… so the decisions are more logical and have a more business-like feel to them…kind of like Detroit.

    With that business-like approach, I think they will consider asset management more carefully. What’s the point of trading for Frattin if you lose him on waivers?

    Both Frattin and Ashton are no longer waiver exempt. I don’t think the Leafs will risk losing them.

    In a game of asset management you have to ask yourself, “Who is likely to clear waivers?”

    The most probable and most simple answer? “The players that have cleared waivers before.”

    McLaren is already on the Marlies according to capgeek.

    Colton Orr has cleared waivers before and with that relatively large salary (there are cheaper enforcer options)…he will clear again. Trevor Smith has cleared before. Troy Bodie, (as much as I like him) has cleared waivers many times before so he is my bet to be the third one sent down.

    So that leaves you with 14 forwards and everybody is a bonafide hockey player: Kessel,Bozak, Van Riemsdyk, Lupul, Kadri, Clarkson, Komarov, Santorelli, Booth, Winnik,
    Kontiola, Frattin, Holland, Ashton.

    My guess is that they might go with just 6 defensemen because their 7th defenseman in Granberg or Percy is still waiver exempt, just bring them up as needed.

    Add in 2 goalies and you are at 22 players, one below the opening day roster limit.

    Some people will worry about the lack of toughness, but against most teams they will be tough enough. Clarkson and Polak have fought some tough customers. Also not very well known in the fact that Danniel Winnik is 210 lbs and will stand up for his team. He won’t knock people out, but he will stand up for a smaller guy and has an impressive dance card that includes Derrek Dorrset, Ryane Clowe, Troy Bodie, Travis Moen and Cody McLeod:

    If a forward gets injured, Bodie will be the first one called up.

  • Jeffler, If I read your article correctly you stated ” this would require the Leafs to be very competitive at that point, which while not impossible, is unlikely”. Where do you draw that from? until the last 14 games the Leafs were competitive. Do you think this lineup is less talented than last years lineup? The players the Leafs have added more than adequately replace the ones that left. Winnik, Booth, Santorelli, Kontiola and Komarov will replace those who left nicely and the team is deeper with this bottom six than the team last year. Along with the defense upgrade will give the top six much more support than last year.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Should teams bump up against their cap? On the surface, it looks like leaving little wiggle room, dangerous. That’s short-sighted.

    It is seldom a good idea to have excess capacity. That means resources (in this case, revenues you can spend) are idle. In a competitive setting, you want all available resources invested in the drive to winning.

    There are two ways to get rid of slack.

    First, pay for a handful of expensive players till you hit the roof. Benefit: should (if you’ve done your homework) improve the per capita quality of your roster. Risk: injuries leave you with few options (our center problem for a spell last season). Or (as the Leafs did last summer) invest in bad contracts and overpay. So, the strategy of raising the per capita bar in the moment backfires.

    Second, spend your money on too many players, as long as the marginal cost of each additional contract is less than the marginal improvement of the player. Yes, this means there are more bodies around than are necessary. But you have reserves in case of injury and chips to trade with for either player upgrades or (even better) some draft picks.

    The Leafs pivoted from the first model to the second. Smart.

  • CMpuck

    Wouldn’t it be heart breaking to both lose Frattin to waivers and to see D’Amigo score 3 goals in 40 games for another team?

    When will management treat recyclable assets like the mega stars they are?

    • jasken

      Dude, what’s your issue? The reason losing Frattin to waivers would be “heart breaking” as you put it is because the Leafs could have easily traded D’Amigo for a draft pick but instead they picked up a player. That means they should use that player because if not, they’ve basically missed a good opportunity to get a draft pick and have given a player (D’Amigo in this case) away for nothing.

  • jasken

    It’s not hard really trade Phaneuf for a 3/4 rd draft pick, retain 1.5mil of his bs salary and bring up granberg/percy or whoever develop them at NHL level with limited ice time and you have roughly 4 mil to spare problem solved.

  • jasken

    How are we over the cap? We have 1 useful forward line. One line of you useful defence. The rest of the team is ahl/journeymen. It going to be another long season……

    • jasken

      Okay, so I will assume the forward group you are referring to is the 1st line. In that case, in what world do Kadri and Lupul fall into the category of ahl/journeymen? Even the L.A Kings would gladly take either of them. Lupul is a 50-60 point producer in a regular uninjured season. If 50-60 points is an ahl/journeyman that would make JVR also a journeyman (although I think he’ll get more than that). Kadri got 50 points last season and will only be getting better. I predict he gets at least 60 points next season. Meanwhile in the bottom six, mostly the players are there for their potential upside. Santorelli got 28 points in 49 games last season. That averages out to just under 40 points in a full season. That’s easily a 2nd-3rd line player on the vast majority of teams. Booth got 19 points in 66 games in a terrible year for him. I expect him to get around the same numbers as Santorelli next season (just under 40 points in a full season). Holland is certainly not a journeyman. He is still very young and most teams would love a prospect like him. He has the upside to be a potential 2nd line center. Certainly a 3rd line center on any team when he matures more (possibly even now). Frattin is in the same situation as Holland. Winnik is not a journeyman because he was on a loaded Ducks team last year. That should be convincing enough not to mention his 30 points which make for a useful player on any team. Clarkson can’t be as bad as last year. I think he’ll get at least 30 points. Really the only one you could argue might be a journeyman on offence would be Kontiola but that’s why the Leafs have too many players. Not all of these players will be playing for them next season. And I believe that Kontiola has potential as shown by his numbers in the ahl when he was in his early twenties (almost a point per game production), his khl play (around .75 points per game), and international play (at the Olympics he got 10 points in 7 games!)

      Onto the defense. With the exception of Polak the Leafs don’t have a journeyman or ahl player on defense. I guess you could argue Franson but keep in mind he finished in the top 10 for defensive scoring in the shortened season and still got 30 points in a terrible year for him last year. I’m no fan of Franson’s but 30 points as a defenseman is pretty good and considering what a bad year it was for him, expect many more points this season from him. I’m hoping 40 points but maybe that’s just dreaming.

  • STAN

    There is a good chance that one or two players not mentioned above make the team out of training camp. That would allow SHANONIS™ to make trades for picks and get well below the cap.

  • Fred-65

    The one point that seems to be missing is the fact that TO has 6 NHL defensemen signed. No team goes into the season with only 6 NHL D. Most dress 7 and sit one in the box… you’re going to need to add D to the roster. Most teams go with 8 D, 13 F and 2 goalies. So the fact is they have more signings to make