Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports

The next Leafs move will either be substantial, or far away

The salary cap and the collective bargaining agreement are interesting things. There are so many weird twists and nuances to what goes into a team’s active salary, from overages to retentions to long-term injuries, that the hockey community tends to be left confused, but not confused enough to decide not to argue their interpretation to the death.

Others will forego knowledge, but escalate straight to “Brandon Pridham and Lou Lamoriello know dark wizard magic tricks and will make anything possible”, while a quiet minority will reserve themselves to “I have no idea and won’t bother” philosophy, which is probably the most intelligent of them all. Thankfully, there are resources that provide context on some of these points, and one of those is popular salary tracking website CapFriendly.

This afternoon, their staff posted an interesting piece on the Leafs’ offseason cap space, specifically focusing on signing restricted free agent Connor Brown to the last outstanding contract on the team. It’s kind of funny that a rookie that’s been in the organization for half a decade, worked his way up, and potted 20 goals in his first NHL season would be the last man standing, but reality puts him in that very spot.

I won’t clip off too much of CapFriendly’s article, mostly because I want to encourage you to give it a full read, but their end conclusion is that the Leafs have about $82.1 million in commitments this year, and can only spend another $421,000 before hitting the offseason barrier of 110%.

This means that..

  • If you believe the Leafs are completely done for the offseason, they either need to somehow convince Connor Brown to take a little over a million dollars as his salary or have him wait until early October to sign his deal, keeping him out of training camp and the preseason.
  • If you don’t believe they’re done, they’re going to have to make a trade (or multiple trades) where they gain enough flexibility to also sign Brown. To be safe, let’s say that they’ll need to free up $1.5 to $2 million.

Alternatively, they could move Brown in the next trade as many have speculated over the past few months, but all indications from Lamoriello and Leafs management hint that he’ll be on the team next year.

It’s a very interesting situation for the Leafs to be in. One thing not mentioned in the CapFriendly article is that this leaves Toronto in a prime position to lose Brown to an offer sheet; they’d have a week to shed salary elsewhere to match the offer, should he sign with another team. They couldn’t defer to LTIR or pre-assigning a player to the minor leagues, and the league is presently between its two offseason buyout windows.

This, of course, assumes that a General Manager in this league would break away from the unwritten rules and offer the first offer sheet in four seasons (and five offseasons) to him and that the Leafs don’t already have a contract-in-principle in place with Brown waiting for the first moment of eligibility. I’d imagine that at least one of those two things is contradictory to reality, if not both.

Regardless, what’s clear is that there are two wildly different pathways the Leafs can go with this; either a summer of tension or another move that will likely feel less than minor.

  • FlareKnight

    Yeah, the offer sheet thing is technically a possibility. But it is one that isn’t very likely. If only because it requires the player to sign it. I’m sure Brown wants to stick around. He just got a taste of playing for his favorite team in the playoffs. The money would have to be pretty stupid for him to turn that down.

    Still means the Leafs have to make some decisions. Either Brown has to wait for the start of the season or they dump a bit of salary.

    • ACLeafs

      Agreed, for Connor to leave the leafs a team would have to overpay by a lot and most teams with a lot of cap space won’t want to give up a 2018 1st round pick since they are most likely lottery bound teams.

      Although if a team does offer sheet Brown lets hope its a team like Colorado or Vancouver and we get their lottery pick because the way the things have been going for the Leafs we would win the lottery with that pick. Imagine picking Liljegren and Dahlen in back to back years.

      • Kanuunankuula

        Um, you could offer sheet him for less than 4 mil (2nd rounder). TBH teams would be stupid not offer sheet him. Leafs have put themselves into this bind with stuff like Martin.