The Toronto Maple Leafs knew they would have some issues with their cap for many years in the future when they signed John Tavares to a seven-year, $77MM ($11MM AAV) contract and then locked up their three future star forwards (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander) to a combined $29.5MM per season.
General manager Kyle Dubas was already hard-pressed last year when he was forced to send a first-round pick to Carolina to get rid of Patrick Marleau’s final year of his contract. The team also sent off popular center Nazem Kadri to Colorado in hopes of adding some much-needed defense. The team already knew it was going to have to make some tough decisions this offseason even with estimates that the salary cap could increase from $81.5 to anywhere from $84-88.2MM. However, the Maple Leafs’ cap situation may have gotten worse, according to Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun, who writes that with the financial impact that is expected to hit the NHL, that salary cap could flatline and remain at $81.5MM next season.
If that’s the case, then the Toronto Maple Leafs plans may require some major changes as they currently have $77MM committed to just 17 players with a number of restricted free agents they must deal with, including Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott, Denis Malgin and Frederik Gauthier. Both Mikheyev and Dermott each should get significant raises, while the team will want to being back Gauthier. Malgin is a different question. On the unrestricted free agent market, the team was likely going to let Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci walk anyway, there would be no room to keep either one if they wanted to bring one back. The team must also find some room for Jason Spezza and Kyle Clifford, who have become valued veterans.
With so much salary, the scribe believes that Dubas will guaranteed be forced to trade at least one of their younger top-six forwards, including Kasperi Kapanen ($3.2MM AAV), Andreas Johnsson ($3.4MM) or Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5MM), each of which make more a significant amount of money and likely could bring back a significant package of cheap roster players.
Of course, much of that is dependent on what happens in the next few weeks/months, but the more time that passes is likely worse in Toronto. Throw in the fact that the team must also deal with Frederik Andersen’s contract in two years and they have even more trouble ahead.