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Leafs Win Jared Cowen Grievance, Have Successfully Bought Him Out

The only legal drama to run longer than Law and Order has ended.

2016 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After an excruciatingly long time, Bob Mackenzie and Elliotte Friedman report that the Leafs have won Jared Cowen’s grievance.

The Leafs acquired gigantic defenceman Jared Cowen from the Ottawa Senators in February, as part of the nine-player Dion Phaneuf trade. A former ninth overall pick, Cowen tumbled down Ottawa’s depth chart in the years following an impressive rookie season in 2011-12. By the time of the Phaneuf trade, neither the Sens nor the Leafs particularly wanted him. After trading for him, the Leafs explicitly told Cowen that they planned to buy him out and not to play him, and that he should look for another job.

Unlike the other spare parts the Leafs acquired in the Phaneuf trade, Cowen actually had a salary cap benefit, despite his overpaid contract: a team buying him out would get a credit of $650,000 in cap space in 2016-17 (and a cost of $750,000 in 2017-18.) On Cowen’s end, however, a buyout stood to cost him $3,000,000 in real dollars. For a player whose NHL career seems close to over, this was very probably Cowen’s last chance to earn that kind of money, and his motives for fighting a buyout are understandable. So after the Leafs moved to buy him out in the summer, fight it Cowen did.

The crux of Cowen’s case against the Leafs was that he was injured when the Leafs attempted to buy him out, and thus that the buyout was illegal. The Leafs disagreed, and the matter went to an arbitrator. After months of waiting, the decision came down in the Leafs’ favour today.

With the buyout confirmed, the Leafs gain a $650,000 cap credit this season, save a considerable amount of real money, and open up a Standard Player Contract slot (they currently have 48 SPCs, whereas had they lost the Cowen buyout they would have 49. The maximum number of SPCs is 50.) This gives the Leafs some flexibility should they trade centre Peter Holland or sign backup goalie Kari Ramo—or should they have something bigger in the works.