You hear a lot about the Toronto Maple Leafs supposed salary cap problems.
The Toronto Maple Leafs currently have nearly $8 million dollars in cap space, according to the Capfriendly.com
Now that sounds good, but it really isn’t.
Because Mitch Marner suffered a high ankle sprain and will still be out of the lineup for a couple weeks longer, the Leafs have some temporarily salary cap relief.
However, as has been well documented, here and other places, the Toronto Maple Leafs would, if they had a fully healthy lineup, be over the salary cap.
This would mean that they’d have to demote players and play without an extra man in the pressbox. Since the Marlies are also in Toronto, this wouldn’t be a massive issue, but it’s still not a desirable situation.
And because of this, and because of their back-up goalie, everyone keeps talking about how bad their cap situation is.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Don’t Have a Salary Cap Problem
They have a slight inconvenience, maybe. But I wouldn’t consider it a problem.
16 of the league’s 31 teams are within a million dollars of the salary cap.
Being capped out is the cost of icing a good team. In fact, cheap owners aside, there’s no good reason for a team that isn’t tanking for a draft pick to be under the cap.
Spending as close as you can without going over is the goal. If you have flexibility it’s nice to be able to add at the deadline, but what sense is there to play short-handed just to be able to add at an arbitrary date?
So if the Leafs had a problem, it would be because they spent their money poorly, not because they don’t have any money to spend.
Is that the case?
Absolutely, indisputably, NO.
The Leafs are getting such good value on the Tyson Barrie, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Freddie Andersen contracts that they’re more than compensated for the slight overpayment to Mitch Marner.
Other than Marner, they have no bad contracts, and if your (on most normal teams at least) best player is the only one with a questionable contract, then it’s not much of a problem.
You can quibble that the Leafs overspent on the Mitch Marner contract, but even if they did (and it seems to be unanimous) it wasn’t by much. If you over pay a 21 year old 94 point player, odds are his deal will be cheap by the time it’s halfway over, and that is probably the case for Marner’s.
But even if not, who cares? Every other team has a worse contract. If your worst contract is given to a 21 year old who projects to be a hall of famer, it’s not that bad.
Auston Matthews’ deal looked bad at first, but was team friendly before it kicked in. Tavares is fine – that’s the cost for getting one of the best players in the world on your team as a UFA. As for William Nylander, his contract is going to be one of the most team-friendly deals in the NHL.
Nylander might be worth $50 bucks less than Marner, not four million. That’s the type of deal general managers hope for their entire career.
Rielly, Andersen, Dermott, Moore, Mikheyev, Muzzin and Barrie all provide massive value compared to what they are paid.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have no bad longterm contracts. Almost every other team has at least one. (info capfriendly.com).
And, if the Leafs need to add someone, Cody Ceci makes $4.5 million and can be easily moved. It’s a huge overpayment, but it’s only for this year, and they’ll almost certainly flip him when they need room.
You can add a pretty good player for $4.5 million. And, if they wanted to promote Moore or Mikheyev, they could conceivably trade Kapanen or Johnson and add an elite $8 million dollar player.
I’m not saying that’s the right more, or that they’ll do it. I’m just saying that if you can potentially add a high-end salary player (let’s say for picks and prospects) and the only pieces you’d have to move off your roster are Kapanen and Ceci, then you – at the very least – do not have a salary cap problem.
Leaf Cap Recap:
The Leafs have no bad long term contracts.
The team-friendly deals they have more than cancel out their less favorable ones.
They have more first line worthy players than any team in hockey, and arguably the best roster in the NHL.
There is an obvious path to roster flexibility they could use to add without subtracting any core players.
Therefore the Toronto Maple Leafs have no salary cap problem.
They simply did the calculus and came to the conclusion that the difference between elite players and everyone else is massive, while the difference between mid-range players and replacement players is tiny.
This means that it’s correct to spend money on elite players, and that you should go cheap with everyone else. Depth has long been a mantra of the NHL, but in reality the team with the most high-end players will have the best chance of winning.
Therefore, instead of having Brown, MacElhinny and Matt Martin, it’s better to have 3 league minimum players and use the savings to get an extra elite player. For instance, keeping William Nylander when almost every publication and analyst said it couldn’t be done.
The Leafs are simply employing a “studs and duds” approach to the salary cap, and it’s going to work because the math says it will. The Leafs don’t have a salary cap problem as much as most people paying attention have a “comprehending a new approach” problem.