Toronto Maple Leafs: Clarifying Connor Brown’s contract and salary cap situation

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 07: Connor Brown
TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 07: Connor Brown /

There have been conflicting reports about the Toronto Maple Leafs cap situation and the effect it has on signing Connor Brown to a new contract, but it appears that it should not be a problem.

The NHL collective bargaining agreement is a complicated document to navigate and in the Toronto Maple Leafs case, there has been a lot of confusion as to whether the team has cap space. The reason is because Connor Brown requires a new contract and after making moves in free agency and re-signing Zach Hyman, the Leafs were reportedly close to the salary cap overage limit for the offseason.

A team can go over the salary cap limit by 10 per-cent which would be $82.5-million. Without using the long-term injury provision the Leafs would be very close to that limit which means that they cannot sign Brown until the beginning of the season. Of course a team can offer sheet the 23-year old but he would also have to sign it, and it would be tough to see the Etobicoke native doing that.

That all changed on Tuesday when James Mirtle of the Athletic wrote that the Leafs actually have space because of the LTIR provision. The confusion in this situation was that the Leafs could not place Nathan Horton and Joffrey Lupul on LTIR until the beginning of the season but Mirtle received clarification on that.

"That something is apparently that the Leafs can — and likely already have — use long-term injured reserve space in the summer.That goes against what we’ve believed possible previously, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to The Athletic on Tuesday afternoon that it was allowed.“Yes, they can,” Daly said when asked if teams were permitted to access additional cap room in this fashion long before the season started. “Same as in-season.”Most teams use LTIR on the opening day of the season, as they like to push their roster as close to the cap as possible before going into LTIR. That isn’t a problem for Toronto given how close they are already to the off-season limit."

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What this means is that the Leafs should have roughly $5-million left to spend on Brown who should be signed in the $3-million range. Mirtle also mentions that the Leafs would have some flexibility to potentially add a player should the occasion arise.

So here is why people may be confused about why the Leafs can use the LTIR provision. Unlike the Chicago Blackhawks who are unable to use it on Marian Hossa, the Leafs had already had Horton and Lupul on during the season so that probably means that it could carry over into the offseason.  As Daly mentioned on Tuesday, the league has not determined whether Hossa’s skin condition makes him eligible for LTIR.

Next: Number of contracts limits Leafs’s flexibility

Daly also went on to say that teams rarely use LTIR in the offseason because they can go over the cap. The Blackhawks also haven’t indicated their plans for Hossa this upcoming season although he likely gets put on LTIR. When the season ended Lupul and Horton’s contracts were on the Leafs cap which is why they are over the limit. Once they are put on, the Leafs will have the cap space to make moves, so any issues that were reported are not as serious as people thought.