Window Is Now and Closing Fast for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are out of the playoffs yet again.

Despite an excellent roster that competed for the President’s Trophy right up until the last game of the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were once again done in the first round. Here’s a gentle reminder that playing to a wide-open window is as elusive as winning the Stanley Cup itself, fraught with its own challenges of good fortune needing everything to fall at the exact time and place.

Whether critical pieces are missing or all the right ingredients are already there, how it all unfolds is never so predictable.

The road to Lord Stanley is a grueling four-round endeavor and assembling a team to hoist the Cup is anything but straight and easy, either.

The Core and Complementary Players

Going by the length of Auston Matthew’s 2023-24 contract ($11.6M) – including Nylander ($7M), Muzzin ($5.6M), and Brodie ($5M) – but also Marner ($10.9M) and Tavares ($11M)  – the Leafs window is seemingly set at three (more) years.

That core of six equals approximately $51M of the flat-cap limit of $81.5M and after taking  Mikheyev ($1.645M), Campbell ($1.65M), Holl ($2M), Kerfoot ($3.5M), and Reilly ($5M) into account for next season, around $16.7M remains on the table for 12 unaccounted players.

To say the least, that’s concerning. (cap data from capfriendly.com).

 Pipeline and Free-Agents

The Leafs pipeline is not what it used to be, though their system is generally regarded as being very strong.  There are a few young players who will be ready to make the jump next season, and the Leafs will need to lean on these types of low-cost contracts. Here’s to you Rasmus Sandin, Nick Robertson, Pierre Engvall, Adam Brooks, and Timothy Liljegren.

For the Leafs to add more depth, they’ll depend heavily on:

  • Overseas free-agent signings akin to Illya Mikheyev
  • Veterans willing to take a hometown discount ala Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, and Wayne Simmonds

It’s imperative for the Leafs to fill out their roster with these value-types of contracts for them to remain competitive in their window.  Going with a reduced roster is also a way forward so far that it helps the Leafs squeeze in a bigger contract they otherwise can’t fit.

Reality Check

Luckily, the Leafs can enjoy a little more wiggle room when Phil Kessel’s $1.2M salary retention comes off the books following next season.

But, even more will need to be shed in order to accommodate a starting goaltender and a top-pairing defenceman, when Jack Campbell and Morgan Reilly hit UFA in 2022.

And, if the Leafs bring back Hyman for 2021-22 and beyond, they are going to have dish out at least $4M (closer to $5M) for his services, leaving approximately $12M for 11 more players.

Now, that’s a worrisome proposition, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have been experts at cap management so far and there’s no reason to think they won’t be able to meet these challanges.

Next. Stay the Course. dark

This is the nuts and bolts of the Leafs putting together a championship season with the current roster. The Leafs window is indeed now and it is closing fast. And winning is only going to get trickier.