Toronto Maple Leafs Should Have a Massive Off-Season Advantage

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 4: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas during interview with Bruce Arthur (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 4: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas during interview with Bruce Arthur (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have an advantage over basically every other team in the NHL.

The Salary Cap may be flat for a couple of years, but this isn’t going to hurt the Toronto Maple Leafs as much as the NHL’s new economic landscape helps them.

When Covid forced the NHL to shut its doors for six months and then resume their playoffs in the middle of the summer, revenues took a massive hit and the league decided that it wouldn’t be increasing the salary cap for several years.

Since the Leafs were counting on the cap going up significantly (and with expansion on the horizon it was a smart bet) to help make the hits on the Matthews, Tavares and Marner contracts a little more palatable, it was a huge blow.

Just not as big of one as the rest of the league took. The Leafs will actually get a huge advantage with the NHL’s new economic situation, and that includes the flat salary cap. f

Toronto Maple Leafs Benefit

So far, there has been only one team that hasn’t cut staff or costs this summer after going out of the playoffs.  That team is the Leafs.  This is an example of how the Leafs will take advantage in the coming season(s).

Other teams actually need to rely on their revenue, while the Leafs are essentially free rolling with the profits of two of the richest companies in the world.  The Leafs already have an advantage outside of the cap with the money they can spend, but every time another team cuts costs, this advantage grows.

Another reason for the advantage is that the Leafs don’t have any bad contracts.   Only Las Vegas is in a similar situation (and they do have Ryan Reeves).  While other teams will be trying to get out of their bad deals, the Leafs don’t have a single player they want to ditch for salary reasons.  Their only bad contract was Codi Ceci’s and he’s a free-agent.

Now, you’re free to bleat on about how Marner is overpaid, but the Leafs don’t want to get rid of him, so its irrelevant.

While other teams are looking to unload players, the Leafs now have zero money on their LTIR with Nathan Horton and David Clarkson’s contracts expiring.  If they want to, they can probably take on huge assets in exchange for some of that juicy storage space because all it costs is real money – and while they’ve hinted they aren’t going to do that, the fact is, they said that when the cost to take on players for the LTIR was lower.   The situation dictates you’ll get paid even more to do it now.

The same theory says that if teams will pay you more to take on bad assets, than your cheap assets are worth more.  The reason Andersen will be traded this summer isn’t because the Leafs are afraid he’ll walk next year (anyone familiar with the salary cap, and the concept of opportunity costs knows letting players walk is usually smarter than trading them if you’re a contender).

No, the reason the Leafs will trade Andersen is that his $5 million cap hit and $1 million in owed salary makes him much more valuable in a trade than he was pre-covid.

So teams will be cutting costs, but the Leafs won’t be.  Other teams will have internal budgets and won’t spend to the cap.  Those that do will still likely be looking to cut costs.  Not the Leafs.

The value of players in situations like Andersen’s, and the value of trading for LTIR candidates is going to skyrocket, and additionally, some players who may not have been available may choose to take short-term deals in order to hopefully see the league (and their value) bounce back.

Taylor Hall was set to get probably $8 or $9 million on a long term deal.  He isn’t going to get that now.  Alex Pietrangelo, same situation.  These players, or similar players, could choose to forgo free-agency for a single year and take a cheap, one year deal right now.

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That could also benefit the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Taken together, this information makes it obvious that in the current situation, flat cap or not, the league’s richest team has the biggest advantage.  It doesn’t hurt that no other team in the NHL has come close to besting them in terms of identifying and signing bargain players either.