Last year at this time, we hadn't even gotten to the end of the second round, the breakup with Kyle Dubas or the 10-day break before Brad Treliving was hired. With Treliving in place, the search for a coach, which is not so much a search, but a quick decision to be made on Craig Berube or Todd McLellan, means the Maple Leafs management is not rushed. They have time, they can make completely thought-out decisions on the roster.

There is a great deal of talk that the Leafs want to trade some players that would have to waive full no-movement clauses. Both Mitch Marner and John Tavares have been mentioned. They would have to agree and in agreeing, they could exercise full control over who they are traded to. The Leafs get to decide if they want to bring high pressure to bear – make it clear they aren't wanted and threaten them with an unpleasant time next season if they don't agree. They would be choosing to do this to two players from Toronto, who were once synonymous with the team.

It doesn't seem like a sure thing that either player would agree, nor that hardball tactics would be the choice of the team. In addition, big moves need to come before other moves. So this stretch of luxurious time until July 1 might be partly illusion.

As of now, the NHL entry draft isn't scheduled. That is a bit odd, more than a bit, but then, it doesn't have a firm location either. The most likely dates are June 28 and June 29, the last Friday and Saturday before the opening of free agency. Edited: apparently I missed the announcement that this was finalized and also had an out of date page on That leaves 45 days before the first-round picks get spent. The last possible date of the Stanley Cup Final is late this year – June 24. But it's likely the final will be in the week just before that date. Which will still leave a very short window between the end of the playoffs and the draft for wheeling and dealing.

Trades can absolutely happen before the SCF, but to say that's frowned upon is to understate the case considerably. It feels like the team is in stasis again, with all the decisions packed into a week at the end of June whether anyone likes it or not. But that too is an illusion, since negotiations often go on for weeks before any hints of trades get reported.

This is the team as it stands now:


  1. Auston Matthews - $13,250,000
  2. William Nylander - 11,500,000
  3. John Tavares - 11,000,000
  4. Mitch Marner - 10,903,000
  5. David Kämpf - 2,400,000
  6. Calle Järnkrok - 2,100,000
  7. Bobby McMann - 1,350,000
  8. Ryan Reaves - 1,350,000
  9. Matthew Knies - 925,000
  10. Pontus Holmberg - 800,000

The only other forward who has played some NHL games of note in this current season is Fraser Minten who will be on the second season of his ELC at $845,833 and will be eligible to play in the AHL. Easton Cowan is not AHL eligible, and is unlikely to make the Leafs out of camp.


  1. Morgan Rielly - $7,500,000
  2. Jake McCabe - 2,000,000
  3. Simon Benoit - 1,350,000
  4. Conor Timmins - 1,100,000

No other defender who has played NHL minutes of note has a contract yet for next year.


Joe Woll is the only NHL goalie under contract for next year, and it's a bargain at $766,667.

Making Space and Filling Space

That's a lot of holes to fill. It mystifies me that anyone can look at that list and consider calling it "running it back" if one of two people aren't traded. This slogan, curse, complaint – whatever – is completely misaligned with reality. If trades are made, they are only the beginning of the job to be done.

The cliff between four and five on the forward list is the issue a realignment of cap spending is meant to fix. The total lack of serious defenders of quality after Morgan Rielly is the issue a realignment of cap spending is meant to fix. The need for a consistent and reliable goalie who never gets injured is the issue a realignment of cap spending is meant to fix.

There are some RFAs that are under Leafs control that could be, some will be, re-signed to fill out that cast list for next year's season.

RFAs with Arbitration Rights

Connor Dewar, who I think the Leafs would happily re-sign, has just had shoulder surgery and does have arbitration rights. His case would not be very meaningful, but he may elect arbitration just as a way to get his name on the agenda for Treliving.

Noah Gregor is someone I think the Leafs might just not qualify or they might re-sign him to a another minimum salary deal because they played him and then didn't, and then did again. It's hard to judge. He could elect arbitration as a reminder as well.

There are some AHLers of no great import to the NHL squad who also have rights: Max Ellis, Alex Steeves, Max Lajoie and Keith Petruzzelli.

And then there's the big one: Timothy Liljegren. He has a fantastic arbitration case based on ice time and role. To add some complexity, there is now the issue of coaching. Sheldon Keefe struggled to find a way to use Liljegren he was happy with. A new coach might want his own shot at finding a fit that provides the team with value, which would put the Leafs into a position of wanting a one-year deal and being happy with arbitration. A trade is also entirely possible. It's impossible to judge this one right now.

The Single RFA without Rights

Nick Robertson doesn't have arbitration rights, but I would expect him to be re-signed and not traded. He hasn't got the track record to make him anything other than Jason's shorter brother to the rest of the league. No other GM or scout has watched his every move like some of his fans have. But for the Leafs people who have watched him, they should have seen a useable player who will score the occasional goal.

Cap Space

I won't pull punches here. Discussion of cap space in May on a roster with this many open spots is utterly meaningless. No number anyone could give out tells you anything about the future.

Please note also that Cap Friendly, once they put all teams in off-season mode, will show a projected 2024-2025 lineup based on current players under contract, and the "cap space" listed on their page is not the offseason cap space.

Offseason cap space is calculated entirely differently, and also has a cushion of 10% of the salary cap ceiling to allow teams to add players and remove some later. There is no cap space issues preventing the Leafs from doing anything they may choose to do. There is only their ability to ultimately move players around to accommodate any additions. There is no such thing as a cap crunch in the offseason, there are only choices yet to be made.


Qualifying offers are due the later of June 25 or the first Monday after the draft. Last year, when the first Monday was July 2, the NHL moved the date back. This year, the first Monday is July 1 (assuming the provisional draft dates are correct), so it may end up being moved to June 29 or 30.

Teams can elect arbitration on eligible players starting 48 hours after the SCF or June 15, whichever is later.

Players can elect arbitration up to July 5, and then teams get another 24 hours.


There is no longer any formal pre-free-agency discussion period. It's supposed to be against the rules to talk contracts before July 1 for UFAs from other teams. You can extend your own players whenever you like, subject to the "tagging rules" which have been updated to be a bit simpler and are based on the offseason cap space calculation. The Leafs have no problems lurking here.

Both William Nylander and Auston Matthews have a full NMC on this, the final year of their current contract. There are no new clauses coming into effect on July 1.

Once people begin speculating in earnest about trades for Marner and Tavares – both with full NMCs – there will be discussion about signing bonuses. Tavares is paid $7.04 million on July 1, leaving $910,000 as the total salary owing. Marner is paid $7.25 million on July1, leaving $775,000 as the total salary owing.

I once wrote an article about how the Leafs were entering a season out of LTIR. It didn't last out of training camp, so I won't say that again, but as of now, there are no contracts that are automatically going to be in LTIR.

Expect a coach hiring by the end of this week or the beginning of next week. And then, we'll see where any of this goes.