With the news that the Maple Leafs have signed Nick Ritchie to a $2.5 million AAV contract we now have a roster that looks something like this:

Maple Leafs Roster

Left WingCentreRight WingLeft DefenceRight DefenceGoalies
Nick RitchieAuston MatthewsMitch MarnerJake MuzzinJustin HollPetr Mrázek
Alexander KerfootJohn TavaresWilliam NylanderMorgan RiellyTJ BrodieJack Campbell
Michael BuntingDavid KämpfOndrej KaseTravis DermottRasmus Sandin-
Ilya MikheyevJason SpezzaWayne Simmonds---
-Pierre Engvall----

The cap space on this configuration is $80,217 per Cap Friendly’s armchair GM, which accounts for the retention on the Kessel deal.

This is a 21-player roster with one extra forward, and that is what we should expect the team to put on the ice, although an extra defender is more common, and that might be the final form of the team. We’ve been discussing for years the extra difficulties in running a team with so few players and no cap space to put someone on IR and recall a replacement. This year’s roster will likely look like that again.

This configuration is not a prediction or my ideal roster, it’s just what they have now, put in plausible positions. There are several problems with this. And in no particular order:

  1. I don’t think Adam Brooks is clearing waivers and his contract is designed for him to be the 13th forward. Because he signed a two-year deal in 2020, his AAV is below this year’s minimum salary amount, although his cash salary isn’t.
  2. Jason Spezza has not played centre a lot on the Leafs. I doubt that’s the long-term plan.
  3. There’s obviously going to be competition for those top two left wing jobs, and Kerfoot has a running start. He was good enough there last season, but not significantly different to Alex Galchenyuk. Sheldon Keefe has shown heavy reluctance to play him as the third-line centre, but Kämpf or Engvall are the next men up.  That versatility is a good thing, not a problem but...
  4. As a top line left wing, Kerfoot doesn’t appear to me to be the best way to spend $3.5 million. As a third-line centre, he’s merely adequate, and doesn’t add much on special teams.
  5. There is one waiver exempt player, and that is Rasmus Sandin. He’s getting cut whenever there is an injury.
  6. There is no room for games for Nick Robertson without an injury or swapping him for Sandin.

None of these problems or concerns need to be addressed for a long time. A cap-compliant roster is due on the day before the regular season which is in October. As much as fans like to carve names into stone in the summertime, the team is not doing that. They haven’t signed Nick Ritchie with promises made about where he’ll play.

This roster is going to have winners and losers, and it’s overfull of players in the Bunting to Ritchie pay range who will battle it out for spots. It’s really hard not to have heard the sourced reporting that the Leafs were holding open $3.5 million in space, look at the Kase and Ritchie signings that used it up and then turn to Alexander Kerfoot and wonder if there’s another move or two to be made.