How do Maple Leafs hit the cap?

Looks who’s struggling with their projected salary cap now?

The Toronto Maple Leafs currently lead the National Hockey League with a dangerously high projected salary cap hit of $92.3M, heading in next season.

That’s a projected cap space of $8.83M ($8,831,450) over the salary cap allocated by the NHL for 2023/24.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are certainly not the only organisation that’s struggling with a ballooning salary cap, but it does make it more difficult to comply.

It’s the largest of the league but is it as bad as some are saying and is it manageable to bring down?

Drilling down

At the time of writing, there is no cap space available to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The $8.8M projected cap space mushroom we mentioned earlier is also composed of two parts which can be broken down.

The first is estimated Cap Hit of LTIR (Long Term Injury Reserve) Candidates ($5,625,000) and the second being the Cap Space with LTIR Candidates (-$3,206,450).

While the overall figure is alarming, Leafs pundits believe it’s the $3.2M figure which warrants the most focus.

It was the Vancouver Canucks which previously held this year’s record. Find out more here: Can Canucks find cap space?

Shedding time?

Toronto Maple Leafs have got to find a way to bring that $3.2M down in order to comply with next season’s cap.

But, does that mean shedding players? Who could be part of a Buyout? Let’s take a look.

Matt Murray

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray (30) defends the net from a shot on goal during first period NHL hockey action against the New Jersey Devils, in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

According to LeafsNation, a trade or even a buyout could be the best options for Matt Murray.

Had the goalie ended up going into LTIR, that would’ve given the team around $4.6M in relief. If they do a buyout, it’s likely they could $793K under the cap.

Nick Robertson

According to LeafsNation, excluding Robertson from the salary cap could be the easiest way to free up $1.59M in cap space

CapFriendly has him down on the Leafs LTIR but the pundits argue that because Robertson doesn’t require any waivers, he can be put aside, at least in the near term.

Robertson is not the only player that is currently waiver free.

Pontus Holmberg and Matthew Knies

They argue that the same process could be followed for both Holmberg and Knies as they too, don’t require waivers. That gives Leafs $3.315M in cap space.

As a contingency, Sam Lafferty and Conor Timmins could also be waived from their bottom six, which brings their cap space to $4.006M

Why do this?

2MA30WA Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov is scored on by Los Angeles Kings center Adrian Kempe during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Just a few days ago, (July 4) Ilya Samsonov’s signing was still outstanding and it was the belief from LeafsNation that with these LTIR moves, space would become available for him.

However, it appears Samsonov is moving into arbitration. But is that a bad thing for Leafs? Debatable.

According to the LeafsNation, Samsonov is one of the 22 players who’re seeking an arbitration hearing, something that could take place between July 20 and August 4th, if it gets to that point.

Going down this road could mean he pushes the Leafs for term, a raise and a one-year deal which isn’t beneficial to the organisation.

However, for the Leafs, there’s a brightside. The first is getting access to a second buyout. Or they can take Samsonov on for one more year and make him work.

Chances are Samsonov’s price in arbitration will fall in line with Leafs’ qualifying offer and they’ll pick him up cheaper. They’ll also have Joseph Woll on the roster, which means Samsonov will have to compete.

The biggest sticking point

2J60X8X Vancouver, Canada, April 26, 2022. Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) celebrates after scoring his 59th and 60th goal of the season with teammate William Nylander (88) after their NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Toronto on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Auston Matthews and William Nylander’s re-signing remain the Leafs’ biggest problems now.

Where are with these negotiations? Not far and neither are positive.

Both players became eligible to discuss extension or consider Free Agency from July 1st.

At the time of writing, Auston Matthews is adamant that he will not accept a contract of five or more years with Leafs. His agents are trying to thrash out contract which include 3 – 5 year spans which could increase his annual salary over the $11.6M he’s been on lately.

The problem with Nylander is that while he does want to extend with the Maple Leafs, he wants $10 M per season. That’s not something the Leafs are prepared to do.

They’ve instead offered him $8.5M.

Posted on: 07 Jul 2023