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Maple Leafs don’t seem to be looking for a trade

The roster might be bursting, but the Leafs seem comfortable with that state of affairs. For now.

Toronto Maple Leafs v San Jose Sharks Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

With training camp set to begin in a few days, the Leafs roster is at 47 SPCs*, and with more than enough players to staff the team, the press box and the Marlies, they seem to be standing pat with the roster they have. Even TSN has stopped trying to trade Maple Leafs players, and none of the 10 names on their pre-season trade bait list are Leafs.

Conventional wisdom says if a player isn’t traded in the summer, they won’t be moved until after the New Year. A quick look at last season shows that after Mika Zibanejad and Derick Brassard were swapped in late July, nothing of note happened until the trade deadline.

But there were some training camp deals. The most notable one was the Ottawa Senators getting their backup goalie situation sorted out by trading for Mike Condon. The rest were depth moves, and the usual attempt by the Avs to find a defenceman.

However, the "five guys for Grabner" trade happened in September of 2015. Dougie Hamilton was traded on October 4 that year, which is one year to the day that Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuck moved to wherever it is the Islanders play. So it’s not like a quiet training camp is the only way it’s ever done. (Edited to add: one of these things is true, the other was my error.)

The Leafs do not have to move anyone. They are under the cap by virtue of LTIR space which they are not using to the fullest, and with Carl Grundström set to return to Sweden, that SPC count is not going to go up by more than one, assuming Timothy Liljegren stays in the AHL. A twenty-three man roster with a list of NHL-ready call-ups is easy to make:

Maple Leafs 23-Man Roster, Pre-Season

Left Wing Cap Hit Centre Cap Hit Right Wing Cap HIt
Left Wing Cap Hit Centre Cap Hit Right Wing Cap HIt
Marleau, Patrick $6,250,000 Kadri, Nazem $4,500,000 Komarov, Leo $2,950,000
Van Riemsdyk, James $4,250,000 Bozak, Tyler $4,200,000 Marner, Mitchell $894,167
Hyman, Zach $2,250,000 Matthews, Auston $925,000 Nylander, William $894,167
Martin, Matt $2,500,000 Moore, Dominic $1,000,000 Brown, Connor $2,100,000
Leivo, Josh $612,500
Left Defense Cap Hit Right Defense Cap Hit
Rielly, Morgan $5,000,000 Hainsey, Ron $3,000,000
Gardiner, Jake $4,050,000 Zaitsev, Nikita $4,500,000
Marincin, Martin $1,250,000 Carrick, Connor $750,000
Borgman, Andreas $925,000 Dermott, Travis $863,333
Goaltender Cap Hit
Andersen, Frederik $5,000,000
McElhinney, Curtis $850,000

Cap Friendly, who I let do the math here with their Armchair GM mode, tells me this roster has cap space of $4,742,500. I used the pro version of LTIR, and I’m not sure if that accounts for always on LTIR like the Leafs two big contracts are, so this might be off by a touch. I’ve buried Eric Fehr’s salary, so if you put him in the press box in lieu of the handily low-paid Josh Leivo, you lose over a million of that space. On the other hand, if you convince someone to take on his contract in a trade, you gain over a million.

Wait, what? The Leafs aren’t adding players. All indications are that they are not adding players right now.

But they have the space. They actually have room for the number ten man on TSN’s list, Jason Demers. I’m inclined to think Demers is just on that list, along with some others, to make it longer than just one or two names. If Florida had really wanted to dump his contract — $4.5 million for three years, a reasonable sum for most teams — they’d have done it. They’d likely want back some of those handily low-paid players the Leafs have, not the unhandily overpaid Fehr.

That space is there, however. You can’t bank it, and it’s not the kind of space that keeps bonuses from rolling over to next year. You can only use it, and while it’s not worth using just for the sake of it, it’s also not too useful to hold onto space hoping a better deal shows up at the deadline. Spend it now on a player who can play.

Paying him is easy; finding him is the problem. If the Leafs had found someone worth adding they would have done it this summer. But that roster is not inflexible, and there’s room to both deal out players on expiring contracts and add players if they can be found.

Training camp doesn’t seem to be the time to do that. Right now, the identity of the press box sitters and the one or two up for grabs spots on the dept end of the roster is the main job for the team. Once a final roster is done, and there’s a few games in the bag, then it might be time to ask if that unspent space can be used to get a player to score some goals now, not later.