It’s time once again to track the Maple Leafs’ offseason cap space. Why? Because although the offseason is actually six weeks away and all the current contracts are still in force, for all intents and purposes, the Leafs are in offseason mode already, so we can pretend it’s July. They can only make deals and sign new contracts they will have room for once free agency begins.
CapFriendly does not track offseason space. And no, the offseason amount is not whatever CapFriendly has plus the 10% offseason cushion. That’s not even remotely how this is calculated. What they show you in offseason mode is a projected roster of players for the next season, and it allows you to get a very good idea of the future in-season cap situation, which is most important to most teams. The offseason is its own beast, and for most teams, the real calculation is moot. But for teams sailing right at the upper limit, it’s necessary to track it because some signings might have to wait on other moves depending on how their salaries are structured.
The concept sounds complicated, but it’s not once you see it in action. The following counts against the salary cap:
- All one-way contracts
- All two-way contracts prorated by the number of days played in the NHL the prior season
- All RFA Qualifying Offer amounts prorated as above
- Any buyout or retained salary amounts
- Bonus rollovers (the Leafs have $212,500 of that this season)/
You add all of that up, and it has to fit under the salary cap plus 10% in overage cushion. That cushion exists to make signing free agents possible, but it vanishes on day one of the season when this calculation goes away and the regular method of naming a roster of no more than 23 players while cutting everyone else to the AHL commences.
Remember: no one is actually in the minors in the offseason. Everyone is on the Leafs roster until training camp cuts begin.
Maple Leafs Offseason Cap Calculation
|Name||Cap Hit (or Qualifying Offer)||Days in NHL If 2-way||Prorated Cap Hit||Projected Roster|
Only days on the NHL roster, IR or LTIR count. Days on Emergency recall do not.
Okay, that’s a lot of information to unpack.
- There is a lot of space right now to do things like sign a goalie and fix it after
- The $4.5 million in space for the projected roster is incredibly misleading
- There isn’t a lot of room on the roster in more ways than one/
The offseason space will go down every time someone is signed to a one-way deal or when regular roster players re-sign to two-way deals. Having a lot of two-way deals for the AHL players makes the cap easier to manage in the offseason, and you won’t find many tweeners in the one-way section.
The projected roster here contains 20 players, that’s what “Contracts” refers to in that column. Of those 20 players, four of them are listed at their Qualifying Offer amounts, and every one of those players is getting a raise. Assuming all four remain with the Leafs, that’s most of the cap space accounted for.
The only goalie is Petr Mrázek, so to get to 21 players, the least you should plausibly operate with, a goalie has to be added as well. Even if you assume Mrázek is traded, the amount of room to do that is tight. So I think it’s obvious decisions need to be made, not from the bottom up, but from the top down. It’s also obvious there just aren’t a lot of jobs available on the Leafs unless someone is traded away first.
I never like the question, “Is there enough space to sign X player.” The answer is always yes, and I say that every year at this time. The question should always be, “What are the priorities, who comes first, and then what room is there to fill in around them?”
This is why I think those RFA deals need to be addressed fairly soon. If Engvall and Kaše go to arbitration, then all the other moves have to happen before their contract amounts are known, and that’s never ideal.
At the exact same time, the big goalie decision tree has to be worked through. Do they keep Mrázek, try to trade him, find another tandem goalie, or something more complex?
The other squeeze is total contracts. The SPC count is at 48, if you assume all eight RFAs are re-signed. That’s as good an indication as any that they won’t be. All those signings of prospects to new deals over the last few weeks also said there’s going to be churn on the Marlies. Some of those players will be loaned to junior hockey (Voit for example), and won’t count against the 50 SPC limit, but no team is going into free agency with very little room to sign players.
The “run it back” terminology is reductive and therefore misleading. There are inevitable changes to come, since there just isn’t room to re-sign every player while giving a raise to five regular roster players and a goalie. The Leafs need to get the ball rolling on their negotiations, but where will they focus first? I’d lock up Sandin and Liljegren before anyone else, but the Leafs may also feel they should simply wait out the playoffs to see where all the other teams are sitting. After all, why not do your entire offseason re-tooling in the two weeks between the Cup being awarded and free agency?