Toronto Maple Leafs: How Marner’s Contract Affects the Salary Cap

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 4: Mitch Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at the Scotiabank Arena on April 4, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 4: Mitch Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at the Scotiabank Arena on April 4, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Toronto Maple Leafs fans, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Mitch Marner is a Toronto Maple Leafs player and will continue to be one for at least the next six years.

That is flat out good news, regardless of the cost and the salary cap implications, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t delve into the ramifications of Marner’s sky-high $10.893 million cap hit.

Simply put, Marner signing for significantly more than originally anticipated just a few months ago puts the Leafs into a tough bind for this upcoming season. They have flexibility thanks to the long term injured reserve eligible contracts of Nathan Horton and David Clarkson, but it’s going to be uncomfortable and potentially force some unique roster construction.

The Contract Limit

Let’s begin with the easiest part of the CBA to digest: the contract limit.

The Toronto Maple Leafs now have 50 players under contract for the 2019-20 season. When Semyon Der-Arguchintsev is sent back to Peterborough, the Leafs will sit at 49 contracts, giving them just one more slot before reaching the maximum.

This can cause issues for a multitude of reasons. For starters, if Toronto elects to sign one of the three players they have in camp on a PTO (Michal Neuvirth, Matt Read, and Brandon Halverson), that will put them at the max. Claiming a player on waivers would also put them at the max.

Being at the maximum contract limit may not seem like much of an issue but when looking to make trades, it can put your team in a dilemma. When at the max, you can’t take on more contracts than you are sending out in a trade. It’s not a pressing matter, but one to take note of and keep an eye on.

Don’t be surprised to see a minor trade or two at the end of camp to clear a slot or two. Last year, the Leafs lost three contracts on the opening day of the season in Curtis McElhinney, Calvin Pickard, and Connor Carrick. We could see something similar this year, either through waivers or trades once again.

The Salary Cap

This is where things get complicated, confusing, and make you thankful that the Leafs employ Brandon Pridham.

The Toronto Maple Leafs cap situation is messy. There are multiple high AAV contracts, up to four LTIR eligible contracts, and an array of near league minimum contracts that can be maneuvered around.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the projected opening night lineup and how the cap situation breaks down.

Given this roster and no LTIR relief, the Toronto Maple Leafs are $13,327,699 over the $81.5-million salary limit.

This is manageable if Travis Dermott and Zach Hyman are eligible for LTIR to start the season. If a player is expected to miss 10 games or 24 days according to the team physician, a player is deemed eligible to be placed on LTIR.

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In the Leafs case this season, they play 10 games in the first 21 days of the season. (Image from If Dermott and/or Hyman are expected to be out 21 days, they can be placed on LTIR and as a result, make things much easier for a 23 man roster to start the season.

Toronto would have minimal room to add a player and wouldn’t be able to accrue cap space over the season, but they would have a 23 man roster within the salary cap.

When Hyman and Dermott return to the lineup, however, things become much more difficult. Simply sending down two extras and replacing them with the duo coming off of LTIR would not create enough cap space to have a roster under the upper limit.

Sending down Pontus Aberg and Kevin Gravel would leave the Leafs $1,377,699 over the cap. A 23 man roster is just not a realistic possibility upon the return of Hyman and Dermott. In fact, the Leafs would likely be forced to run a 21 man roster, with rotation likely depending on roster needs.

This would put the Leafs in an awkward situation if multiple players become injured at the same time, but not long enough for LTIR. There’s a real possibility we could see the “roster emergency” rule come into effect if Toronto runs into injury issues.

According to section 50.10(e) of the CBA, a team that is forced into a roster emergency can recall a player with the AAV of league minimum plus $100,000 until the emergency is over. An emergency is determined when a team is forced to play 17 skaters due to injuries, an outcome that is not that far from a possibility if the Toronto Maple Leafs are forced into using a 21 man roster.

Given all that complex information and CBA shenanigans, this is roughly the roster we will see once the Leafs return to full health.

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There’s not much room for flexibility, but there are ways around it.

Rather than years past where the extras have played just a handful of games over the year, Toronto will likely have multiple players serve as the 21st man on the roster over the course of the season.

I would imagine we see players placed on waivers often and Toronto Marlies get looks over the course of the year much more frequently than in years past.

Next. The Leafs Win The Marner Deal. dark

It’s an exciting time in Toronto. The big three are here to stay and our full focus can be put towards the upcoming season, with actual games to be played beginning on Tuesday.

I’m just as ready as the rest of you to start talking about game action and put all this complex, frustrating contract talk behind us.