The Maple Leafs have a salary arbitration case on their hands. Goalie Ilya Samsonov decided to exercise his option to have an arbitrator help select the salary for his next contract with the Leafs. Well, sort of. We all know that these cases rarely make it so far along in the process that the two sides actually sit down in front of an arbitrator, but there's still a lot at play now by him selecting this option.
Indeed, the Leafs themselves now have more options. Samsonov's election means the Leafs get to have a second buyout window, meaning they can dump another player contract at the cost of the cash payouts and the lower salary cap hit that is spread out over time. The second buyout window would open up three days after the Leafs either settle with Samsonov, or three days after the arbitrator rules, if it gets that far. Remember that Samsonov can still negotiate a new deal with the Leafs right up to walking in to that arbitration hearing, which would be scheduled somewhere between July 20 and August 4.
What's certain is that the Leafs will clear some salary cap space somehow, and this is where you can imagine all kinds of scenarios, like a giant flashing sign over Matt Murray that says "Buyout Candidates Stand Here." While that's talked about by some like buying him out is an obvious choice, there's always a chance of the Leafs rolling the dice on playing Murray through his final contract year this coming season, and another option is a good old fashioned trade. Murray could be moved, assuming he actually is healthy enough to be cleared to play, something which sounds likely, but I assume any acquiring team will be doing a thorough investigation.
You know who else could be traded? Samsonov himself once he gets his arbitrated contract award, though if that award is for a contract over precisely $4,538,958.00 then the Leafs can walk away from the deal and let Samsonov go as a free agent. He's certainly due for a large raise from his current pay of $1.8M, but it's hard to know where the arbitrator would land. If the arbitrated one-year contract came in just under that figure, it would make the situation more complicated for the Leafs, and also Samsonov would have to hit the market again next summer, which would be the third summer in a row for him to go through this process, so he may not really like that outcome either. Both sides have at least some reason to believe it's better to work out something other than the arbitrator deciding the contract.
Of course, there's other potential trade options on the roster too. What the Leafs have today is flexibility to work out a solution. What it will be we'll have to wait and see.
When you're cap-strapped, having options is good, which we noted yesterday some teams are in the same boat but without those choices.
There's some drama with Vladimir Tarasenko. The free agent has fired his agents and hired the well known reps from CAA after not getting offers he thought were acceptable.
A long time and well known Swedish NHL player is calling it a career.
And another called it quits too at only 33 years old.