You can only have 50 players on a Standard Player Contract. The Toronto Maple Leafs finished the season maxed out at 50. Now, if you go to CapFriendly right now and look, the Leafs’ page says 37, but they’ve switched over to next season already.
This means that the Leafs can sign all sorts of players not currently under NHL contract to deals that begin July 1. They could sign Darren Raddysh, if they like. They could find another European they missed the first time through the scouts’ lists and sign him. They could find a college player from America who is looking for a contract. They could sign Brad Boyes. They could sign any of their unsigned draft picks.
But they can’t take a player in trade currently under an NHL contract for 2016-2017 without sending at least one contract back. If all of these Chicago rumours are true, and deals are to be made, the only way the Leafs can get in on it is by trading back a player on that 50-man SPC list.
That holds true until the expansion draft is finalized, which is not until June 21, and they will have 49 SPCs at most.
That doesn’t mean the Leafs can’t do something [insert your own adjective] like trade for Richard Panik — that’s who that rumour’s about right? But they would have to give up a man going back to do it.
This hurdle makes it a little harder for the Leafs to make deals, but it’s also a nice incentive to clear out players they know they don’t want and make measured decisions about any acquisition.