Toronto Maple Leafs: How the team benefits from David Clarkson trade

In a strange turn of events, the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled the trigger on a trade to take David Clarkson’s contract for Garret Sparks and some are wondering why.

Just when you think the Toronto Maple Leafs were done surprising the hockey world they decided to add fuel to the fire by bringing back David Clarkson, well his contract to be more precise.

Going to the Vegas Golden Knights is Garret Sparks in exchange for Clarkson and a fourth-round pick in a trade that caught pretty much everyone off guard. There were no rumblings around the Leafs being interested in acquiring the contract only that Vegas was trying to get the deal off the books.

The contract that was viewed as one of the worst in franchise history was suddenly an asset worth trading for. No, Clarkson will never step foot on the ice again and it’s unlikely the team will move the contract anywhere else for a couple of reasons.

Both the Leafs and Golden Knights had some work to do to improve their salary cap situation and found a compromise that worked for both teams. For Toronto, this gives them the room they need to sign Mitch Marner and for Vegas, they are no longer in cap hell and got enough relief to do some other moves.

During the off-season, teams can be 10 per cent over the salary cap but have to be cap compliant by the time the season starts. That means a team like the Leafs can go as high as $89.65 million but will have to find relief somewhere. Being over the cap is usually a bad thing but when you figure in long-term injured reserve then it becomes an advantageous tool for team’s that know how to make the most of it.

For the past couple of seasons, Toronto had been using LTIR with Nathan Horton and Joffrey Lupul to get relief and it helped with William Nylander’s pro-rated cap hit of roughly $10.3 million (don’t worry that was only for one season). With Lupul coming off the books, this changed how much relief the Leafs could get if they exceeded the cap.

Right now, the team doesn’t need to any relief since they are just over the $81.5 salary cap with Clarkson’s contract on the books but they know that they need to prepare for the moment when Mitch Marner signs.

Want your voice heard? Join the Tip Of The Tower team!

Write for us!

Before making the trade for Clarkson’s contract, the Leafs cap hit was $77,734,699 which includes Sparks $750,000 cap hit . With Horton going on LTIR, they could have added roughly $9.06 million in salary which would have put them at $86,800,000 heading into the season.  If they needed to create more space, they could have put Zach Hyman or Travis Dermott on LTIR.

This complicated the Leafs ability to announce contract signings like Nick Shore, Kenny Agostino and Garret Wilson because then Marner’s contract would have likely put them over the cap. Now with Clarkson’s contract here not only does this give them more off-season cap room but it also protects the team from a potential offer sheet or Marner’s negotiation extending into the season.

This is the part some seem have struggled to understand but CapFriendly helps sum it up by explaining how the Leafs can have a total cap hit of $ 92,050,000 because of the team would gain $10.55 million in relief from Horton and Clarkson.

A problem the Leafs had in the past was that LTIR doesn’t provide relief from performance bonuses which is what their star players were getting on entry-level deals. Now that isn’t something they need to worry about unless a prospect with those bonuses makes the team out of camp.

So to help summarize everything here’s the benefit of doing the deal with Vegas even if they only got a fourth-round pick as compensation.

  1. The Leafs can get a Marner deal done now and not worry about going past the 10 per cent salary cap overage limit during the off-season.
  2. Toronto only have to pay $200,00 to Clarkson because his deal was insured unlike Horton.
  3. The team wasn’t in a position to use LTIR until Marner signs but also couldn’t do much else when it comes to their other free agent signings that are pending.
  4. The team doesn’t need to penny-pinch to get into a proper cap situation and don’t need to worry about an offer sheet putting them into future cap hell.

What do you think about the trade? Are you still confused about how it benefits the Leafs? Let us know in the comments below.