The NHL announced the salary cap will likely be staying flat for at least the next 3 seasons, which doesn’t bode well for teams close to the ceiling. Or, right at the max for that matter. The Toronto Maple Leafs may be in the toughest spot of any team, with an expensive core, some extensions on the horizon, and very little wiggle room to work with.
— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) June 26, 2020
While GM, Kyle Dubas has been known to have a few tricks up his sleeve, like the time he traded his backup goalie to Vegas and turned it into almost $5 million in cap space, the creative minded, Dubas, will need to be exactly that over the next couple of seasons.
Here’s a few ways the Leafs can keep their core together, while still improving their club:
1. Let the kids play – the Maple Leafs are lucky to have some prospects who are NHL-ready. From the likes of Rasmus Sandin, Nick Robertson, Jeremy Bracco, and Timothy Liljegren, the Leafs will have to insert several ‘entry-level’ contracts into the lineup to make this work. The good news for Leafs Nation is, these kids can play, so it really shouldn’t hold the team back. The next wave includes Ian Scott, Mac Hollowell, Yegor Korshkov, Adam Brooks, and Seymon Der-Arguchintsev,
2. Let some people walk – Cody Ceci at $4.5 million won’t be back and I can hear the applause from here. Pending UFA, Tyson Barrie is a huge question mark, and should demand the type of money the Leafs can’t afford. Besides these two on the blue-line, the Leafs have most of their players locked up for next season…it’s the two seasons after the fan base should worry about.
3. Keep Euro-Trippin’: The Leafs have been striking gold in Europe the past few years. Ilya Mikheyev looks like a top-9 player before he got hurt. Throw in KHL defenseman of the year, Mikko Lehtonen and rugged Russian, Alexander Barabanov, the Leafs continue to plug some holes with cheap European contracts, laced with low-risk high-reward. If you’re going to be successful, you must find a few diamonds in the rough, be it in at the draft, or with free agents. Kyle Dubas seems to have this skill.
4. Let’s make a deal: The most unlikely of options as it’s never easy to pull off a trade in the NHL, especially when teams know you need to badly, the Leafs could find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Don’t expect big names like William Nylander or Mitch Marner to move, it would be more likely to see Kasperi Kapanen, Alexander Kerfoot, or Andreas Johnsson get shipped out for a cheaper defenseman. Their contracts are all between $3.2 million to $3.5 million, which some would consider good value. It’s the upcoming extensions of Morgan Rielly, Freddie Andersen and Zach Hyman that are coming up, which could eventually force Dubas to pull the trigger.
The Maple Leafs are lucky to have a front office with the most knowledge of the salary cap. The team has used this knowledge to make minor moves with major financial impact. If the Leafs can’t stick with their creative guns, they may find themselves shot in the foot when it comes to spending money. Remember the good ol’ days when the Leafs would just outspend everyone, unfortunately, for them, the salary cap put an end to that.
Good thing one of their employees created the salary cap…his boss could probably kiss him on the lips right about now.