Toronto Maple Leafs: Matt Martin trade provides salary cap flexibility

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 25: Matt Martin
DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 25: Matt Martin /

The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Matt Martin to the New York Islanders giving him a chance to get regular playing time while getting some salary cap relief.

Kyle Dubas continues his remake of the Toronto Maple Leafs after making the biggest splash in signing John Tavares.

His latest move might not be on the same scale but still an important one as it gives the team some much-needed flexibility. This was something Scott Wheeler discussed in his latest article for the Athletic.

In sending Matt Martin to the New York Islanders, the enforcer gets a chance to play on a regular basis while the Leafs gain a roster spot and get rid of Martin’s $2.5 million cap hit.

It has been a theme with this front office that anytime a player is not providing value in the deal they signed, chances are they won’t be around much longer. The Leafs ability to find landing spots for these contracts and avoid retaining salary is not easy to do especially with a player like Martin.

Why is this deal important for the Leafs? They aren’t in a cap crunch this season even with the signing of Tavares, William Nylander needing a new deal. Of course, there’s also the contract extensions for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner which will need to be sorted out but for now, the team has the room to still do something else if they want.

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They missed out on Calvin de Haan who got a four-year $18.2 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes but the free agent market wasn’t going to be the best place to find the necessary upgrades.

Most teams have been dipping their toes in the trade market especially with Erik Karlsson on the block but it wouldn’t be realistic to expect the Leafs to go that route since the Ottawa Senators wouldn’t want to send him to a hated rival.

Obviously, the likelihood of the Leafs bringing back Jake Gardiner, Patrick Marleau, and Ron Hainsey when they’re up for free agency are slim since the team will hope to have cheaper and younger players ready to step in.

If not, the team can still look to trade for a player that another team might not be able to retain because of cap problems or contract talks don’t work out.

The idea floating around on social media that the Leafs won’t be able to afford to keep their forwards around and get better on the blueline is tough to comprehend considering how well-managed the team’s salary cap is.

It helps that Morgan Rielly ($5 million AAV) and Nazem Kadri ($4.5 AAV) are signed to great hometown discounts which allow the team to invest in other areas.

Currently, the team has $65,320,833 tied up for next season which leaves them with $16,179,167 in cap space, that’s not including the possibility of using Nathan Horton on LTIR.

Toronto only needs to sign Nylander, Andreas Johnsson, and Frederik Gauthier to round out their remaining restricted free agents. At most those contracts shouldn’t cost the team more than $8 million and that might even be a stretch.

They could possibly go after a player like Colton Parayko who Elliotte Friedman reported on Sportsnet 650 that there were trade discussions involving him at the draft. To get a defenceman of that calibre won’t be cheap however as it would likely cost the Leafs a player like Nylander.

According to the Athletic, Jared Spurgeon was asked to provide his no-trade list to the Minnesota Wild which could be a good opportunity for the Leafs to get a top-four right-handed defenceman at a more reasonable cost. Again there hasn’t been any more speculation past that but you have to think that the Wild want to shake things up with a new general manager in charge.

The Leafs can also go with what they have for now and see if something develops later in the season or at the trade deadline but there’s no urgency at the moment.

Next: Leafs Podcast - John Tavares is coming home

This is a young core that has put themselves in a long window with the addition of Tavares and just because the team has cap space doesn’t mean that they need to use it unless they see a move worth considering.