NHL waivers and salary cap can be confusing. This guide explains everything needed to understand all of the Toronto Maple Leafs latest moves.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were busy on Sunday, the day before the NHL trade deadline. They traded three picks for defenseman Mark Giordano and center Colin Blackwell.
While it may be the most notable, it wasn’t the only transaction made by General Manager Kyle Dubas on that day. He also traded Travis Dermott to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick and signed Finnish goalie Harri Sateri.
While some of the moves are more straightforward than others, there are implications to the salary cap and waivers. This is your guide in understanding what it all means.
Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL Salary Cap
Every NHL organization has 50 players spots, 23 of which are used for the NHL roster (we will get to the other 27 shortly). According to CapFriendly, all 23 of the team’s roster slots are occupied. Toronto just brought in Giordano and Blackwell from Seattle, which is why the Leafs needed to clear space on their roster. They were able to do so by shipping Dermott to Vancouver.
However, the Leafs still need to find an addition two player spots even with all the movement. If they want to have Sateri between the pipes in the NHL and to bring back Jack Muzzin from long-term injured reserve (LTIR) once he’s healthy, the Leafs needed additional moves. This is where the waiver wire comes into play.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek and left-winger Kyle Clifford were both placed on waivers on Sunday. This opened them up to another team claiming them, meaning that they would be plucked from the Leafs and join their claimant. The rules are that the new club would absorb the remainder of their contract and the player(s) would need to remain on the NHL roster for the remainder of the season.
However, if a Leafs player like Mrazek or Clifford go unclaimed then they will be eligible to join the organization’s farm team, the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. They could then be switched to be part of the Maple Leafs non-roster spots, the other 27 of 50.
This would be a more significant move for the Maple Leafs if it helped the franchise’s salary cap. The maximum any team can spend on talent for the 2021-22 NHL season is $82.5 million. The Maple Leafs have been flirting with approaching their cap limits every year, so whenever a big salary is unloaded it helps them become able to acquire other contracts.
After Sunday’s trades, the Toronto Maple Leafs have just $91,292 in cap space. It’s not enough to include Sateri’s new contract, which is another reason why Clifford needed to go on waivers. Once cleared, so too will his $1 million dollar contract. Clifford will become a non-roster player and his salary will not count towards the cap. Unfortunately for Toronto, the same isn’t true about Mrazek.
The NHL rules dictate that any player earning greater than $1.075 million and on a one-way contract, will still have their salary count towards the cap even if they clear waivers. This means that Mrazek’s $3.8 million will remain a part of the club’s salary cap.
What’s interesting is that while Muzzin remains on LTIR, there is no longer space for his $5.625 million contract. It most likely means that if Muzzin is going to return to the play again this year, it will only happen as early as the postseason when there is no salary cap.
The Maple Leafs hope to find big success with their team’s new look. All the waiver actions and salary cap considerations won’t mean anything unless Toronto uses it to win when it matters most, in the Stanley Cup playoffs.