Today, Tim Gleason, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs, cleared waivers which is the first step towards buying out the awful Leafs' defenceman. I've seen some people that are praising the Leafs for moving out an obvious dead weight - funny that Gleason wasn't dead weight when they traded for him - and for saving some money on a buyout compared to what it would have cost John-Michael Liles. To be frank, this is literally missing the forest for the trees and it's endemic of analysis of the Maple Leafs where fans and media alike have a goldfish-like memory. Here's a timeline of what got us here and what the effect on the Leafs' cap would have been.
January 25, 2012 - Toronto Maple Leafs Sign John-Michael Liles
While out with a serious concussion, the Toronto Maple Leafs decided to sign John-Michael Liles to a four-year extension worth $3.875M towards the cap per year. The Maple Leafs did not wait to see how JML would recover from his concussion and signed him as if he was healthy. It's a nice bit of symmetry that the Leafs are once again negotiating with a crocked player as if they were healthy. Gee, wonder how that will work out.
Chemmy had some easily predictable concerns with the deal at the time that didn't even touch on the concussion but moreso on the natural aging curve for players. The Leafs had a veteran on an expiring deal that they could have flipped for picks if his performance had been strong. Instead, they decided to sign him to a questionable deal.
What They Could Have Had
No bad deal and possibly a late draft pick or two for simply housing JML for a few months.
July 2, 2013 - Toronto Maple Leafs Buy Out Mike Komisarek
Speaking of easily predicted mistakes, the Leafs finally saw the light and bought out Mike Komisarek. A quick look at his and JML's cap geek page would have shown that the better use of a compliance buyout would be the guy with three years left on his deal and not the guy with one. And maybe Nonis could have spent a few seconds talking to his coach to see if Randy was going to play JML more than six times in the season. It's great to know that Carlyle quickly decided that he had no time for JML but never told his GM. Instead he preferred to play Mark Fraser 19 times.
What They Could Have Had
A slightly higher cap hit in 2013-14 if they kept Mike Komisarek and JML would have been bought out for zero dollars. Both deals were Burke mistakes but at least Nonis would have corrected the larger one.
January 1, 2014 - Toronto Maple Leafs Trade John-Michael Liles For Tim Gleason
During the Winter Classic, Nonis traded John-Michael Liles to Carolina along with some no-mark prospect establishing the Leafs as a management group that can't make a bad trade without sweetening it. I bet you're going to sense a pattern but the move wasn't embraced here:
This is basically a garbage swap where you give away a problem contract for another bad contract and hope the guy you get improves with a change of scenery. Unfortunately Tim Gleason has battled injuries for a number of years and as a guy on the wrong side of 30 it might end up that he's cooked.
Randy Carlyle wouldn't play JML preferring to let Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger stumble around haplessly so David Nonis picked him up another lead footed defenceman to act as his security blanket.
A smarter move than buying out Tim Gleason: Not trading for him in the first place.— Sean Gentille (@seangentille) June 30, 2014
Way to go, Leafs. You get to lose more than $5 million in space over four years for a player you pointlessly bought.— Sean Gentille (@seangentille) June 30, 2014
What He Could Have Had
A better defenceman in the lineup than Mark Fraser for one. If only Carlyle didn't have a grudge against him and decided to pummel his value then maybe instead of a garbage for garbage trade the Leafs could have given him away to a team that needed a defenceman either during the season or during the summer. The second Sam Gagner trade showed that there are other options than "take back a crappy deal".
Too bad they traded a useful defenseman in Liles for 4 more years of dead cap space.— David Johnson (@hockeyanalysis) June 30, 2014
July 1, 2014 - Tim Gleason Clears Waivers, Will Be Bought Out
Which brings us to today and the move for which the Maple Leafs' brain trust is being lauded despite the fact that they are the same people that made the moves leading up to this buyout. Frightened by the idea that they no longer had Darcy Tucker on the books, the Leafs decided to ensure that there was sufficient dead weight to make even the most ostrich-like supporter realise that it's a problem by buying out Gleason. Here's how the cap will be affected in the coming years:
|LENGTH: 4 YEAR(S) TOTAL AMOUNT: $5,333,333 TEAM: TOR|
The bright side for the Maple Leafs is that at least the buyout won't last longer and the cap will probably go up. Now, let's see what a John-Michael Liles buyout would cost:
|SEASON||SALARY||CAP HIT||BUYOUT||SAVINGS||BUYOUT CAP HIT|
Huh, would you look at that. The Gleason buyout actually leaves the Leafs worse off in three of the four years of the buyouts. Gee, wonder if anyone bothered to check before saying what a smart move it was. Odds are that the conversation actually went something like this:
"Hmmm... What am I going to do with the cap space we get from the Tucker buyout expiring? ...Mary? Get me Tim Gleason's agent." - Dave Nonis— Andy Donaldson (@ArticleOne1979) June 30, 2014
Sure, the figures are small but as anyone that has been paying a lick of attention could tell you, the small amounts add up until you have cap constraints so rigid that you have to sign Jerrod Smithson to play centre.
And in case you thought that the Leafs might learn from this odyssey then don't forget that they just used the same justification in their pursuit of Roman Polak:
/Leafs buy-out guy billed as "providing snarl and a physical presence" /"We need a guy who provides snarl and a physical presence"— 67Sound (@67sound) June 30, 2014
So the next time some lunatic is shrieking "DO YOU THINK THAT YOU'RE SMARTER THAN AN NHL GM!?!?" remind them of these moves as you calmly say "yes".