An Update on the Toronto Maple Leafs Salary Cap Situation

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to move wisely and carefully as they navigate the NHL salary cap. (Photo by Christopher Pillitz/Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs need to move wisely and carefully as they navigate the NHL salary cap. (Photo by Christopher Pillitz/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a busy summer, so it’s time to take stock of where they are with their salary cap.

For the 2021-22 season, the NHL salary cap is $81.5 million. It’s a number that Toronto Maple General Manager Kyle Dubas would love to exceed but due to league restrictions, he needs to ensure that the Maple Leafs stay below the figure.

It won’t be easy, but with Branden Pridham, the team has walked the tightrope time and again and been very successful (at least during the regular season, and it’s hard to blame Corey Perry kicking John Tavares in the head on the salary cap).

According to CapFriendly, the Maple Leafs are already in a difficult situation. Currently, the team has a projected cap hit of $82,894,783.

Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL Salary Cap

Though the Leafs are technically over the cap today by $1,394,783, you’ve got to take that with a gran of salt because not everyone assumed to be on the team right now will actually make the team.

One of the reasons that the Leafs have reached this point is because they have 49.7-percent of the cap tied up in four players’ salaries. Auston Matthews’ $11,640,250 AAV takes 14.3-percent, John Tavares’ $11 million AAV takes 13.5-percent, Mitchell Marner’s $10.903 million AAV takes 13.4-percent, and William Nylander’s $6,962,366 AAV takes 8.5-percent of the cap. In total, those four salaries total $40,505,616. It leaves just $40,994,384 for Dubas to fill out the remainder of the roster.

This unusual move may seem crazy to the average fan, but a mathematical study in The Athletic recently ranked them as having the 3rd best contract efficiency in the NHL.  Why? Because it turns out that star players – even expensive ones – return the most on the their investments.

Considering the situation, however, It isn’t surprising that the Leafs are already over the cap. Fear not. This actually isn’t as scary of a position as it appears. The figure that Toronto exceeds the salary cap of $1,394,783, actually matches the long term injured reserve (LTIR) space. This is not a coincidence. Thanks to that available LTIR space, the Maple Leafs don’t exceed, but actually hit the cap ceiling. It gives them no remaining cap space.

With no room to add even one more dollar, the team cannot make roster additions without also having subtraction(s).  This isn’t as bad as it seems because some players will go to the AHL, some players will be injured, some rookies will make the team, and Kerfoot and Mikheyev can always be moved to make $5 million in cap space.  If the Toronto Maple Leafs want to add a player like current UFA, Derick Brassard they could probably do so.  Being able to mover two players on decent contracts gives them flexibility.

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Dubas may not be done tinkering with the roster, which means that trades are on the table from now until the NHL trade deadline. Let the rumors swirl.