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Maple Leafs cap space post Riley Nash trade

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Half of the picture is clear. The rest is like watching a game in reverse retro jerseys.

The Toronto Maple Leafs played the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank arena Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Yesterday, the Leafs traded for Riley Nash, a Columbus forward who is currently injured, but expected to return to playing form in four to six weeks. His contract pays him $2.75 million this year, and he is an expiring UFA.

That was the easy part. The hard part is trying to figure out the salary cap implications of this move. Yesterday, it was revealed that the Leafs had placed Frederik Andersen on LTIR, retroactive (we assume) to when he last played. If that is the case, he must stay on LTIR until April 12.

Before they placed Andersen on LTIR the Leafs moved Martin Marincin back onto the NHL roster (he had been loaned to the AHL, but never physically went there), and recalled Michael Hutchinson from the Taxi Squad. CapFriendly has the full picture here:

The purpost of the first set of moves was to maximize the total cap hit before Andersen was moved to LTIR. That total cap hit becomes the ACSL (a term you can read about on CapFriendly) and functions as essentially the Leafs own personal cap ceiling that they are not allowed to exceed. Getting so close to tha actual cap ceiling is always the goal.

As long as Andersen stays on LTIR, the rest of the roster can fluctuate up and down by sending a player to the squad on off days, as long as they are waiver exempt, and that cap space can be banked. This is something that only really matters until the deadline, so whatever can be added Sunday is really it.

Riley Nash, meanwhile drained the $5 million LTIR pool by the full amount of his cap hit or $2.75 million. LTIR is spent dollar-for-dollar on players, and there’s no banking in the pool. That leaves an available pool of $2.25 million in player cap hits that can be added.

Now, you might be asking yourself how this made cap space. And you’d be right to ask that, since everyone’s initial take on this deal was that adding Nash as a player to be put on LTIR created $2.75 million in LTIR pool. Instead, as of now, he’s reduced the pool by that much. The only reason there is $2.25 million in space is because Andersen is on LTIR. Nothing has been gained.

If Nash is placed on LTIR now, I believe that the LTIR pool simply fills back up by the amount of his cap hit, or returns to $5 million. No new cap space is created, and the only way Andersen could come off LTIR is if no new players at all are added.

This is not the scenario that’s out there on Twitter right now, but I am now setting this aside until the next chapter of the story is revealed and someone who understands the process of putting a player who is using the LTIR pool to cover his cap hit on LTIR can explain it.

If you, dearest commenters, understand this, please explain it to me like I’ve lived through a pandemic for a year and aren’t as quick as I used to be.

To be continued if Nash is put on LTIR.

Chapter Two

Update the second, with the way they’re showing this on the website now:

So, sure, the pool rises to $7.75 million, but it still must be used to pay Nash’s cap hit, so it’s effectively $5 million, so what is the gain? There’s no free cap space “made” by LTIR, because Santa isn’t real.

The total cap hits are, as shown above, $84.6 million and almost all of that LTIR pool is covering the difference. I think, at best, a little bit, less than half a million, of cap space was used out of the banked space, and that’s... still not an improvement.

As of now, I’m officially back on team mystified about how this deal did anything but add Nash. Not that I begrudge Nash’s existance any.