FanPost

Why cap space played a role in Miro Aaltonen being sent to the Marlies

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

During training camp, it appeared Miro Aaltonen had taken the fourth-line center job that Dominic Moore was signed to fill. After being signed as the best producing under 24-player in the KHL, Aaltonen had to wait six months before he could join the Leafs at camp, and there was much speculation about his NHL readiness. Personally, I thought he couldn't cut it as a center in the NHL, being undersized and not great at faceoffs in the KHL. My expectation was for him to start with the Marlies as a center, then graduate to the Leafs as a winger down the line. Mike Babcock had other plans, and looked beyond his prototypical 4C by giving Aaltonen a chance. Eric Fehr also had a strong preseason game, and forced himself into the conversation. After the final preseason game it appeared Aaltonen had won the 4C job, and Fehr would be a healthy scratch, but today we found out Aaltonen was sent to the Marlies.

There is more to the story than simply icing the best 23 players available though. We've seen this in other cases, as Kasperi Kapanen and Nikita Soshnikov haven't had a real chance to make the team, despite being NHL ready, because they are waiver exempt. Although Aaltonen is also waiver exempt, this is not why he was sent down.

A team cannot exceed the salary cap by more than 7.5% ($5,625,000) by using Performance Bonuses. With Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Andreas Borgman on the roster, the Leafs already have $5,400,000 in potential Performance Bonuses. Adding Aaltonen's $850,000 schedule B bonuses would make them exceed that cushion by $625,000, which means their usable cap space would be reduced to $74,375,000.With Horton being on LTIR they can spend up to $79,675,000. The problem with that is if you replace Fehr on our current roster with Aaltonen, we are spending $79,754,167, meaning we would not be cap compliant. Same goes for replacing Moore with Aaltonen.

Some of you may be suggesting that we place Joffrey Lupul on LTIR to solve this problem, since he has now failed a second physical and been deemed eligible for LTIR. The issue with that is, if we were to place him on LTIR prior to season start, there would be next to no advantage because of the formula used to calculate the relief a team gets. The Leafs must wait until the regular season has begun to place Lupul on LTIR, and so they have to become cap compliant using other methods before then. As we all know now, sending Aaltonen down is that other way. Once we place Lupul on LTIR, I would not be surprised to see Aaltonen replace Moore on the roster.

To make a long story short, the decision to send Aaltonen to the Marlies was heavily influenced by something called the Performance Bonus Cushion, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him recalled soon, much like Connor Brown last year. If you guys have any questions about how the LTIR calculations work, or what the Performance Bonus Cushion is, feel free to ask! Article 50.5 (a) and (h) of the CBA also cover the Performance Bonus Cushion

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