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.