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Predicting Zaitsev, Tavares, Matthews and the Next 3 Years of Leafs' Salary Cap (Part 1)

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After missing out on Stamkos this off-season, a lot of us Leafs fans have turned our attention to near-Toronto native, John Tavares. In this series of ariticles, I will take you through the Leafs' salary cap situation for the next three years, which includes re-signing Zaitsev, Nylander, Marner, and Matthews, and potentially chasing Tavares.

Now, there are many factors to take into account: who we trade, who we re-sign, who we sign, who gets eventually called up, who gets potentially sent down, performance bonuses, and buy-outs, if any. We also have to assume the Leafs don't put Horton on long-term IR because that'll interfere with their ever-so-many prospects' performance bonuses.

2017 Off-season aka Zaitsev Year

As per General Fanager, the Leafs have approximately no cap space for this year (56k). Our cap hit for next year stands at about 49.3 million, courtesy of expiring contracts from Laich, Michalek, Greening, Polak, Holland, Hunwick, and Robidas (THANK GOD). Now assuming the Leafs sign a back up this year for 1.5 million, for, say 2 years, they'll have to rid themselves of the same amount, due to their little cap space. Buying-out Jared Cowen's contract will give them 3.75 million in cap space, more than enough to sign a backup and call-up Hyman, Soshnikov, Marner, and Brown. The buy-out (700k) plus the 3.75 million used on the backup and call-ups will add 4.45 million to next year's cap hit. Next year's cap hit now stands at approximately 54 million.

Players with expiring contracts that we'll actually re-sign are probably: Hyman, Zaitsev, Brown, Loov, Leipsic, Corrado, Sparks, and Bibeau. Assuming that Zaitsev re-signs a Reilly-like deal, 6 years, 5 mil per, that'll account for a 5 mil cap hit. If Hyman, Corrado and Brown play the whole year they're probably get "bridge deals", say two years 1.25 mil per, which'll account for 3.75 million total cap hit. Now, Loov, Leipsic, and Sparks are probably gonna get Leivo/Carrick/Corrado-like deals (one way deals worth 600-800k), which'll be about 2.25 million (for numbers' sake) total cap hit. Bibeau is probably gonna get a this-year-Sparks-like two-way contract which won't count against the Leafs' cap hit. Adding these cap hits all up we get 11 million against the cap. Adding 11 to 54, our cap hit is now at 65. The NHL salary cap has raised by an average of approximately 2 million in the last 10 years. This would put the cap limit for the 2017-2018 season at 75 million. Now, at this point the leafs will have 10 million in cap space. Next year's biggest free agent is arguably Joe Thornton, with many other big names also hitting the market (Marleau, Bishop, Shattenkirk).

Next year is also the expansion draft for the Las Vegas team. Without getting into much detail, lets assume the player Las Vegas takes has a cap hit of 2 million or less (backup, bridge-contract player, older prospect). Now we have 10 plus 2, so 12 million in cap space. Factor in 6 million for trades and free agent signings (we spent 4.75 mil this year on free agents so far). Now we're at 6 million cap space. The maximum overage for this year is 5.45 million (7.5% of total cap). If all of Matthews, Nylander, Zaitsev, Marner, and Nylander hit their performance bonuses for this year the overage from this year will count against next year's cap. Coincidentally enough the total overage comes to 5.4 mil, leaving the Leafs with a mere 600k of cap space for next year.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in which I'll talk about Tavares and Nylander.

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