The Toronto Maple Leafs contract problems are a bit overblown.
William Nylander remains on the sidelines, Jake Gardiner is a pending unrestricted free-agent and both Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are going to require massive new contracts.
The Thing is, it’s not going to be as difficult to fit everyone in as it’s made out to be. The Leafs have to sign four players, and they’ve already said that they will. (GM Kyle Dubas – “We can and we will.”)
Many have speculated that the Leafs will have to sacrifice at least one of their core players. They won’t.
So how will they go about doing it?
Toronto Maple Leafs Contracts
Everyone seems to think the Leafs are going to have to lose players, but the fact is that they are in pretty good shape. The Cap is at $79.5 million. It will go up next year, and can be expected in increase by quite a lot with another expansion team on the horizon.
The Leafs are lucky because don’t really have any bad contracts, or any long term deals that are going to hurt them. (Other than Patrick Marleau).
They’ve also got a lot of decent prospects that they can move in and pay entry-level money to as the cash crunch intensifies.
For instance, they can move out Nikita Zaitsev and his $4.5 million and replace him with Timothy Liljegren for a saving of over $3 million.
They could move out Connor Brown and his $2 million, replace him with Jeremy Bracco and save a million dollars.
They could move out Zach Hyman and his $2.25 in favor of Carl Grundstrom on an ELC. This saves $1.25 million.
Ron Hainsey will be gone next year. He can be replaced with virtually any NHL player making the league minimum with no loss of quality, for a savings of $2 million.
All together, that’s Seven Million Dollars in savings, and the team is barely hurt. You can also count on the cap going up at least another Two Million, giving the Leafs nine million in extra space, in addition to the $30 million in space they have already for next year.
With $39 million in space, they could sign Nylander to $7, Marner to $9, Matthews to $11 and Gardiner to $6 – that would still leave $7 million to fill out the rest of the roster.
There is also the option of putting one of those players on a cheaper bridge deal, or medium term compromise (Matthews, for instance, could sign for five years like Crosby did coming off his ELC).
If the Toronto Maple Leafs still need space after that, they could get Marleau to waive his No Movement Clause, and could pay another team a draft pick or salary to take the last year of his deal on.
I haven’t even mentioned Nathan Horton – his $5 million counts against the cap until the Leafs exceed the cap, and then it’s on the LTIR and doesn’t count, so there’s another five million available for next year. That should let you do everything I already said as well as sign Kasperi Kapanen.
As you can see that this is not rocket science. Even with a slight overpayment to the core players, the Leafs have the organizational depth to replace all their B players with rookies and sign everyone.
Just because Nylander is talking a long time doesn’t mean the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have a firm plan to sign every single one of their core players. Or that they can pull it off.
It is reasonable to assume the Leafs will retain all of Matthews, Nylander, Marner, Gardiner and Kapanen.