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The Shape of This Offseason for the Leafs

The Leafs have some decisions to make — none urgent, as things won’t heat up until July.

NHL: MAY 14 Playoffs Round 1 Game 7 - Lightning at Maple Leafs Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NHL is moving towards a traditional schedule with this offseason, and we hope that remains possible, but for a few more months, the usual things are going to happen on a slightly strange schedule.

With a focus on what matters to the Leafs, this is the offseason schedule:

May

With two more weeks in May, the NHL focus is almost entirely on the second round, which should end just before the month does. There will be some more awards nomination announcements coming as things progress on the ice, however.

The IIHF World Championship is already going on, and runs to May 29, but it’s a bit late for most countries to be adding players. If any Leafs players were interested, that is. I could see Nick Abruzzese going if USA wanted him and had space.

June

The NHL Awards will be handed out in an event hosted by the home team of the Stanley Cup Final before that round starts. So, date, time and location to be determined on that, but sometime around June 15 is when it will land.

The Memorial Cup starts on June 20, and will feature Toronto prospect William Villeneuve on the host team. It ends on June 29, which is one day before the last possible day of the Stanley Cup Final.

July

July is where offseason happens, and it’s a tightly packed schedule. The rumour mill will have to churn alongside the SCF this year, but July 1 is not Free Agent Day.

Buyouts

July 1 is when the first buyout period begins. There is always galaxy brain buyout talk, so here are the rules in brief:

  • The buyout percentage is determined by player age and means the team saves 23 on players under 26 and 13 on everyone else.
  • The buyout is based on salary, not AAV or cap hit.
  • For the calculation of amounts, there is a calculator at Cap Friendly, see the link above.
  • Players have to go on waivers first, unless they have a no-move clause and then the player can reject that part and go directly to the buyout.
  • All 35+ contracts can be bought out, but only those that are not front-loaded and have no signing bonuses after year one can provide cap relief.
  • Signing bonuses are not part of a buyout.
  • This year the buyout period ends on July 12 at 5pm meaning all players who need waivers, will have to be waived by July 11.
  • The second buyout period, with restrictions on the AAV of the contracts eligible, is after arbitration in the late summer.

Arbitration

Club elected arbitration has to be filed by July 2 at 5 pm. The player elected arbitration has to be filed by July 17 at 5 pm, and at 5:01 pm, teams get a second opportunity to elect arbitration that lasts 24 hrs. The arbitration hearings are set to start on July 27, and the expectation is they will be in-person hearings this year.

Arbitration is only available on eligible RFAs, based on games and seasons played. The Maple Leafs have the following Arbitration eligible RFAs:

  • Ondřej Kaše
  • Pierre Engvall
  • Kristiāns Rubīns
  • Joe Duszak

Pierre Engvall has one hell of an arbitration case, and just based on ice time and nothing else, his contract is going to make people yelp. More on that in the coming weeks.

Arbitration eligibility gives more power to RFAs, since they can elect arbitration and force the team to re-sign them whether they want to or not. The contracts that come out of hearings are one or two years only, but it sets a value on the player at least at what they are currently paid. And if the team wants to move on without that player, they have to find a trade partner somewhere in the process.

Qualifying Offers

Qualifying Offer to RFAs are due on July 11 at 5pm.

The offer has to be for a valid one-year SPC of a prescribed amount. The amount is at least the current year’s salary (not cap hit or AAV) and for lower paid players, it includes a set raise in salary. See the calculator for qualifying offer amounts.

If a team does not issue a QO, the RFA becomes a UFA when free agency opens.

If a team does issue a QO, the player can simply accept it — not uncommon for players one year out from arbitration. The QOs expire on July 22, at which time the player remains an RFA if they haven’t signed, and the only difference is they have to actually negotiate a contract rather than just accepting the QO.

The rest of the RFAs the Leafs have to decide on are:

  • Rasmus Sandin
  • Timothy Liljegren
  • Chad Krys
  • Ian Scott

Joe Duszak serves as an example of how arbitration and QOs interact. If the Leafs want to cut ties with him, they can just not offer him a QO. However, he has arbitration rights, so if he elects arbitration, they can’t just trump that with no QO, they actually have to either trade his rights, negotiate a contract or go to arbitration and come out with him under contract at the end of it.

Looked at another way, however, the team can elect arbitration, and he has no case for anything over what he’s paid now, and the award could well be less than his QO. He would be a minimum salary player for another year. By doing that, the Leafs would lock him in at the best possible deal for another interested team. Arbitration elections travel with the player in trade, so the Leafs would be wise to do this no matter what they see as his future.

Entry Draft

This year the draft is on July 7 and July 8 in Montreal.

There is supposed to be a Draft Combine in Buffalo this year after two years of cancellations. No official word on dates has been issued, but it has to be after the Memorial Cup and before the draft, so the July long weekend seems like the only time it can happen.

Free Agency

Free agency opens on July 13 at noon. That means the deadline for teams to extend eligible players to eight-year deals is midnight on July 12. That day is also the start of the one-day RFA discussion period where they can accept offer sheets and discuss contracts with other teams as well as their own, of course. There is no UFA discussion period, which means we have to pretend all the deals done on July 13 are spontaneous.

All things that normally are due on July 1, like signing bonuses and no-trade lists are moved to July 13. This does not affect people not governed under the CBA - management, coaches, etc. Their contracts end on June 30 as normal.

August

As mentioned above, the arbitration hearings get underway at the end of July. They will be wrapped up in August, and the NHL will have the closest thing to a downtime as it gets. However, this year, August is full to the brim with elite hockey.

The 2022 WJC begins on August 9 in Edmonton and runs through to August 20. Everyone who was eligible back in December is still eligible regardless of birthdate, so it’s possible we’ll see Matt Knies, Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemelä there again. No guarantees at this time, though. Latvia and Austria have been added to the tournament to replace Russia and Belarus.

The Women’s World Championships is also in August from the 25th through to September 4.

And of course, what you really care about is the T25U25, which is likely to run right alongside the WJC. We’ll be able to watch some of the people we’re arguing about, it’ll be great.

That’s the broad strokes. We’ll have more on the players needing contracts in the coming weeks.