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Maple Leafs the only team to finish the year with zero cap space

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They also will carry bonus overages into next year.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

On the second last day of the season, William Nylander scored his 20th goal, earning him a performance bonus of $212,500, one of his Schedule A bonuses that can accrue up to $850,000. Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews had already maxed theirs out according to the Toronto Star. Because Matthews missed so much time with injuries this year, it was expected that he would miss many of his more lucrative Schedule B bonuses which would have added as much as $2 million to his salary.

Chris Johnston is now reporting that the total Leafs bonus overages are $2.55 million, which is less than last year’s huge figure of over five million.

This isn’t necessarily the total bonuses earned, rather this is the total that cannot be contained within the 2017-2018 salary cap, and will carry forward and count against next year’s salary cap. This year’s salary cap had to absorb $5.37 million in carried forward bonuses from the 2016-2017 season before the current year’s amounts were added in, per CapFriendly.

CapFriendly is also reporting today that the Leafs were the only team to never have their total salary cap hit drop below their limit. They did not use all their available LTIR room but they did use it all year, and have no space to offset any bonuses, so it would seem that this reported bonus carryover figure is the total for 2017-2018 out of the potential earnable bonuses of over four and a half million. Three players at $850,000 in Scheduel A bonuses each makes exactly $2.55 million. This figure cannot be 100% final, however, if Matthews has a Schedule B bonus that would pay out if he wins one of the NHL Trophies yet to be awarded.

Using CapFriendly’s current information for next season, deducting the bonuses that will carry forward and the potential bonuses that can be earned next year, the cap space for 2018-2019 is just under $19 million. There is also the potential to use $5.3 million in LTIR room created by the Nathan Horton contract. However, if that happens, and the Leafs accrue no cap space all season again, they will be rolling bonus overages of up to $3.7 million into the 2019-2020 season.

Those figures are based on a static salary cap of $75 million, and we know that the cap is going up. So added to that space is the projected three- to seven-million dollars in increase that will be announced later this summer. The Leafs also have many RFAs to sign which will immediately eat into that space. The biggest contract will go to William Nylander.

This worries a lot of people. Many people are forecasting difficulty in fitting in Nylander’s new salary as well as Auston Matthews’ and Mitch Marner’s the following year and still finding room to pay for a potentially expensive top-pairing defender. The truth is, an awful lot can change in two years. Players come and go, and teams always have to make tough decisions about what contracts will fit under the cap.

Without knowing what the upper limit of the salary cap will be in 2019-2020, it’s difficult to forecast how much room the Leafs will have to add new players or who they might chose to trade away to make space. It looks like the last year of Patrick Marleau’s contract might be a very thorny issue right now, but by this time in in 2020 we might be wondering what his extension will look like.