Toronto Maple Leafs: How the Clarkson Trade Affects the Cap

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 12: David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on February 12, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 12: David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on February 12, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Toronto Maple Leafs re-acquiring David Clarkson was about the most unexpected move of the offseason.

There are so many levels to this trade, from the immediate impact of trading Garret Sparks, acquiring another draft pick, and the cap implications of taking on Clarkson’s contract for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Long term injured reserve is a very, very complex thing. There are many different equations, dates, and other factors that go into how it can be used, when it can be used, and how much relief it gives a team.

Toronto has had a player eligible for LTIR for multiple years now in Nathan Horton. As a team that would already be going into LTIR, the Leafs had little to worry about taking on the contract of Clarkson.

Let’s begin with the max utilization possible for the Toronto Maple Leafs after this trade.

If Toronto puts Horton and Clarkson on LTIR when they are at the maximum $81.5 million in salary, the Leafs will be given $10.525 million in salary cap relief for the two players going on LTIR. This would essentially allow the Leafs to spend another $10.525 million once the season starts. Take this directly from the CBA, but replace the $70-million ceiling with the current mark of $81.5 million.

"Illustration #1: The Upper Limit in a League Year is $70.0 million. Onthe last day of Training Camp, a Club has an Averaged Club Salary of$71.5 million (excluding Earnable Performance Bonuses up to the fullamount of the Performance Bonus Cushion). A Player who has an SPCwith an Averaged Amount of $2.0 million becomes unfit to play on thelast day of Training Camp, and on the same day, the Club Loans a Playerwho has an SPC with an Averaged Amount of $1.5 million to the minors,decreasing its Averaged Club Salary to $70.0 million. On Opening Day,the Club exercises the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception onthe unfit-to-play Player. The Club may then replace the unfit-to-playPlayer with any Player or Players who have SPCs with an (aggregate)Averaged Amount of $2.0 million. If these replacements are made onOpening Day and are maintained through the conclusion of the season, theClub’s Averaged Club Salary is $72.0 million, as the Club is permitted toexceed the Upper Limit by $2.0 million because of the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception."

At this point in time, the Leafs carry a total cap hit of $82,234,699 with the likes of Frederik Gauthier, Kenny Agostino, Ben Harpur, and Martin Marincin on the active roster, and Nick Shore and Ilya Mikheyev in the minors. I doubt that is how the roster will be constructed come October 1, but it marginally affects that total.

Given that $82-million mark, Toronto would have to clear $734,699 in space to be cap compliant at $81.5 million. At that mark, the Leafs could then place Horton and Clarkson on LTIR and would be able to exceed the salary cap by $10.525 million.

Now, the Leafs would not be able to accrue cap space throughout the season doing this. They would also be penalized with an overage for the 2020-21 season if they had any players hit performance bonuses, though the current active roster has no players that have them in their contracts.

That is the current situation if Mitch Marner doesn’t sign prior to the start of the season. It would give Toronto the necessary space to sign a contract in season, as a deal would be pro-rated to the number of days remaining in the first season (this is why William Nylander‘s cap hit was $10 million in 2018-19, but only $7 million the rest of the contract).

Simply put, it gives Toronto flexibility.

If Marner does sign before the season, they can put the duo on LTIR prior to the contract being signed. The way this move looks on the surface, however, is far from promising in regards to the current negotiations. The Toronto Maple Leafs are preparing for a Mitch Marner-less start to the season, and you should too.