Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs Salary Cap Crunch: Liles To Be Demoted?

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With Cody Franson now signed an in training camp, the Toronto Maple Leafs can now turn their full attention to icing the best team possible becoming salary cap compliant. Due to an offseason of inept cap management by the front office and a combination of injuries and suspensions, the Leafs have some work to do before Monday (when team’s must be cap compliant).

As of today, the Leafs cap situation is as follows (h/t James Mirtle whom projected this roster/put together this list):

FORWARDS
James van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Tyler Bozak ($4.200m) / Phil Kessel ($5.400m)
Joffrey Lupul ($5.250m) / Nazem Kadri ($2.900m) / Nikolai Kulemin ($2.800m)
Jay McClement ($1.500m) / Dave Bolland ($3.375m) / Mason Raymond ($1.000m)
Trevor Smith ($0.550m) / Joe Colborne ($0.600m) / Colton Orr ($0.925m)
Frazer McLaren ($0.700m) / David Clarkson ($5.250m) /
DEFENSEMEN
Carl Gunnarsson ($3.150m) / Dion Phaneuf ($6.500m)
Mark Fraser ($1.275m) / Cody Franson ($2.000m)
Paul Ranger ($1.000m) / Jake Gardiner ($1.117m)
John-Michael Liles ($3.875m) /
GOALTENDERS
Jonathan Bernier ($2.900m)
James Reimer ($1.800m)
OTHER
Buyout: Darcy Tucker ($1.000m)
Buyout: Colby Armstrong ($1.000m)
RETAINED SALARY TRANSACTIONS (0.778% of upper limit)
Matt Frattin ($0.437m—0.5%) Ben Scrivens ($0.062m—0.1%)

CAP PAYROLL: $64,816,667; BONUSES: $300,000 CAP SPACE (23-man roster):- $216,667

With this line up the Leafs still remain ~$216,000 above the salary cap, which is obviously not ideal.

While not ideal, it is certainly not an impossible situation to deal with, as $216,000 is pocket change in NHL speak, and 1 demotion will make the Leafs cap compliant. A common misconception about the new CBA is that you are unable to bury contracts. While a team cannot bury a full salary, demoting any player will free up $925,000 in cap space as per Cap Geek, more than enough for the Leafs.

Frazer McLaren is injured, and David Clarkson is suspended, because of this the Maple Leafs have very little wiggle room to make any roster moves up front. The only option available would be a transfer of McLaren to the LTIR and the use some creativity in their demotions and recalls. This option is quite obviously only an option if McLaren’s injury is serious enough to warrant a trip to the LTIR, which remains to be seen at this juncture.

The Leafs project to have 7 NHL defenseman their roster, but could use the aforementioned “burying clause” in the CBA to send whomever is the odd man out (likely John-Michael Liles) down to the Marlies. This would expose Liles to waivers, but with his salary it would be quite unlikely that he would be claimed.

While Liles would probably not be pleased, it would all but solve the Leafs cap issues (barring another not serious enough for LTIR injury between now and David Clarkson’s return). The Leafs could very well have some sort of salary dumping trade in the works that will catch everyone off guard, but as of today that does not appear to be the case.

As of Monday, the NHL requires that all teams are in compliance with the salary cap. For this reason there will be a flurry of roster movement on Sunday as teams struggle to navigate the CBA in order to squeek under this season’s artificially depressed salary cap. With a number of useful players potentially becoming available through the waiver wire, it could become an interesting and stressful day around NHL front offices.

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Tags: Toronto Maple Leafs

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