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Frederik Andersen is out for 7-10 days at least: Is this a salary cap problem?

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The rules this year make solving this kind of cap-crunch easy.

Winnipeg Jets v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

Today, as the Leafs’ last four-day break comes to an end, coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed that Jack Campbell will start tomorrow, as Frederik Andersen is “day-to-day” with a timeline that looks more like at least a week. We should likely expect Michael Hutchinson to sit as backup.

Andersen, who hasn’t practiced since his last start on Friday, March 19, is said not to have a new injury but to still be suffering from the same nagging unexplained issue that has plagued him most of the season.

Seven to ten days from the date of his last game covers tomorrow’s game vs the Senators and the Leafs first home game on Saturday against the Oilers. The Leafs play the Oilers again on Monday and then travel to Winnipeg to face the Jets on Mach 31. They play the Jets twice and then the Flames twice and don’t return home until April 6. The Flames games on April 4 and 5 are the only back-to-backs in this section of the schedule.

The next question will be is Andersen well enough to go on that western road trip, but that is a problem for after the Oilers’ visit.

Jack Campbell, just coming off an injury recovery, should get lots of starts and everyone should get a chance to see him play as a regular starter.

But what about the salary cap?

The timeline makes it seem like Andersen is going on IR, where he doesn’t count against the roster limit, but would the salary cap. This is highly unlikely since the Leafs never need roster limit exceptions as the most they ever play with is 21 in total. It’s not LTIR, where Andersen’s salary does not count against the cap, because that’s 24 days off the playing roster, not 10.

So, if he’s not on LTIR, is that a cap crunch? No, it isn’t. This season, there is an expansion of the emergency rules that allow for a goalie to fill in, free against the cap, in certain conditions:

Section 50.10(e) of the 2020-2021 Transition Rules

For the 2020-21 season only, a Club shall be permitted to Recall a Player pursuant to the Roster Emergency Exception with an Averaged Amount (if calculated exclusive of Exhibit 5 Performance Bonuses) that is no more than $1,000,000. For purposes of clarity, any Performance Bonuses earned by a Player Recalled pursuant to Section 50.10(e) shall be included in determining a Club’s Performance Bonus Overage for the 2021-22 season.

Additionally, the following language will be appended to Section 50.10(e) for the 2020-21 season only:

Notwithstanding the foregoing, applicable to the 2020-21 Season only, if a Club has less than two (2) goaltenders on its Active Roster who are able to play in the Club’s next Regular Season game due to injury or illness, it will be permitted to Recall a goaltender from its “Taxi Squad” immediately without the Club playing the previous game with fewer than two (2) goaltenders.

Additionally, should both goaltenders on a Club’s Playing Roster become incapacitated during an NHL Game, the Club will similarly be permitted to immediately Recall a goaltender from its “Taxi Squad” for purposes of playing in such NHL Game.

For clarity, any Goaltender Recalled per Section 50.10 (e) will, on the date of such Recall (even if such Recall occurs after 5:00 p.m. ET) and during the period of such Recall, be included in the Players’ Share but will not count against the Club’s Averaged Club Salary.

Emphasis on the paragraph of importance.

The Leafs have used this provision many times already, including when Jack Campbell was injured. Michael Hutchinson can be moved from the Taxi Squad to the playing roster for a game, and then goes back on the squad on off days. He never counts against the cap, and the only detriment is to the number of players that can be held on the squad in addition to Hutchinson. The Leafs have no real reason to need more than five spaces, so that’s a non-issue.

So there is no cap crunch, and nothing forcing the Leafs to use LTIR for what they keep saying is a minor injury Andersen has played through before.