The NHL salary cap is set to remain at $81.5 million next season and this won’t affect the Toronto Maple Leafs one bit.
When a lot of people think of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a negative light, the first thing they think about is their salary cap issues.
But, every time I hear that, I get confused. The Leafs don’t have any salary cap issues. They have their entire core locked up, and they have no bad deals, and they don’t stand to lose any major pieces due to cap problems.
Even some of the most popular sports writers in Canada think that the Leafs have an issue, but I don’t really understand it.
Look at this quote by Steve Simmons in one of his most recent articles:
Somebody is going to have to go. You can’t spend half your money on four players and have any real chance of success. And there is little assurance the salary cap of $81.5 million US — now artificially in place for the next two seasons — will be going up in the years to follow.
Just because a team does something different and hasn’t succeeded yet, doesn’t necessary mean it doesn’t work. Simmons says it can’t work, but the math says different.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Cap Situation
This is year one (and the playoffs haven’t even started) of a multi-year plan.
Also, the NHL is a copy-cat league.
When one team has success, typically the rest of the league follows and tries to replicate it. When the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 by fighting their way to a championship, a number of teams (including the Toronto Maple Leafs at the time) thought they still needed fighters to win.
When the LA Kings won, it felt that all you needed was an All-Star goaltender and amazing defense, but then when the Pittsburgh Penguins won, you could do it with an inexperienced goaltender and offensive weapons up-front.
The thing about winning a Stanley Cup is that there’s a ton of luck involved. One or two bounces here and there and you can win or lose a series.
The Washington Capitals were down 2-0 in their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018 and barely won in Double Overtime of Game 3 to keep their series alive. One bad bounce, and Washington goes down 3-0 and most likely loses that series and never wins the Stanley Cup.
With so much luck needed to win a Stanley Cup anyways, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a great position with the individuals they’ve signed long-term, even if their contracts are a little high.
Sure, the Leafs may have to move a contract like Kasperi Kapanen, Alex Kerfoot or Andreas Johnsson to clear $3 million, but the team doesn’t need to get desperate to stay under the salary cap. Those three contracts would all be easy to move and provide the team with flexibility.
Of the six spots they have left to fill (three forwards, three defenseman), the team is currently at roughly $76.858 million, which means they’ll have $4.6 million left.
Assuming, Nic Robertson ($850K), Timothy Liljegren ($863.3K), Adam Brooks ($725K), Mikko Lehtonen ($925K) and Jason Spezza ($700K) are all with the Leafs next year, the team would then have about $500K available to sign one player.
Obviously that’s not enough to sign anyway, so at this point as mentioned before it would make sense to trade Johnsson, Kapanen or Kerfoot or multiples to clear a little space to re-sign Ilya Mikeyev, Kyle Clifford or a better defenseman, but overall the team is far from being in any salary cap issues.
When you have Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner all locked up on the same team in their prime, that’s more than enough offensive damage for a team to be successful. Not to mention, a consistent John Tavares, underrated Zach Hyman and possible upcoming superstar in Nic Robertson to help score, the Leafs offensively will be fine no matter who they put on the third or fourth lines.
Also with the salary cap staying flat, it means that free agents won’t be signing for as high-priced as they normally would, so that may even benefit the Leafs more that they could steal a defenseman off the market for a cheaper price than they would typically have to pay.
Either way, the salary cap staying flat will not affect the Toronto Maple Leafs in any way.