New Salary Cap Projections Not Kind to Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO, ON- APRIL 15 - Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) grimaces after blocking a shot in the final seconds as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins in game three of the first round play-off series in Toronto. April 15, 2019. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 15 - Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) grimaces after blocking a shot in the final seconds as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins in game three of the first round play-off series in Toronto. April 15, 2019. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing a lot of salary cap-related problems this summer.

The cap ceiling for the 2019-20 season is soon going to be finalized, and the expected figure is not too kind to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It has long been rumored – if not assumed – the upper limit would rise from $79.5 million in 2018-19 to $83 million next season. The great, and reliable, site CapFriendly.com has been operating under those projections for a while.

A $3.5 million increase would have been fantastic news for several teams, with the Maple Leafs at or near the top of the list.

Cap Not Going Up As Much Previously Thought

Unfortunately, things don’t appear to be going as planned. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported several teams are worried the ceiling will be well below the initial estimate of $83 million. Perhaps even lower than $82 million.

If it turns out the ceiling only rises slightly more than $2 million, we’re probably looking at something in the $81.6-81.8 million range.

Let’s be optimistic and assume it’s the latter. That would leave the Toronto Maple Leafs with $7,590,301 in cap space.

Even if Mitch Marner comes in for considerably less than anticipated on a long-term extension – he *could* be paid in the same ballpark as Auston Matthews – that is not enough to get him locked up. Not even close.

Add in raises for fellow restricted free agents Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, and the Maple Leafs are blowing way over the ceiling.

Oh, and we can’t forget about the defense situation. Jake Gardiner is leaving, Travis Dermott is injured, and Ron Hainsey’s future is up in the air.

Already almost entirely capped out, the Leafs only have one right-defender with legitimate NHL experience (Nikita Zaitsev) under contract and he wants to be traded.

Big picture, that is a good thing – he’s not worth the $4.5 million he’s pulling in annually, and it’s no secret the Maple Leafs need to cut salary – but it has the state of the blueline looking pretty bleak.

Trading Zaitsev, whose perceived value thankfully seems higher than his actual value, Patrick Marleau, and potentially Connor Brown – and replacing them with cheaper options – was already key for the Toronto Maple Leafs to a) wiggle out of this cap jam and; b) ice a roster that can contend immediately.

2018-19 Leafs Player Grades. dark. Next

With there now being legitimate concern about the cap ceiling coming in at least $1 million lower than expected, it’s even more imperative.

Kyle Dubas has a lot of work to do.