One of the things that seems to constantly hold the Leafs back is the lack of cap space to improve the team through free agency and trades. Kyle Dubas not being able to predict a global pandemic and sign a core of major contracts just before was unfortunate and while no one can blame Dubas for not seeing COVID coming, there is something to be said for the signing of agreements that depend on moving the salary cap in a favorable manner.
Now that I said that, the ceiling is going up, so all of the Leafs’ problems are over, right?
Via the 32 Thoughts podcast, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly suggested the salary cap could go up as early as the 2024-25 season:
I’ve seen some preliminary estimates recently that would make me more optimistic that the cap will go up sooner, whether it’s two or three seasons away, I think two seasons more likely than not rather than three.
Honestly, that seems like a reasonable expectation given the absolute wave of play money being thrown at the league right now. The game plus the introduction of jersey ads, US TV deals and the addition of the 32nd team to the league should see the NHL surpass its performance from pre-COVID seasons, and with all due respect to angry folks, that income will more than offset the Coyotes dropping from 11,000 in attendance to 5,000.
If you’re worried that it won’t lead to steady growth due to inflation issues, that’s fair, but the game tends to be recession proof, so the NHL definitely has that going for it, as well that they will have an ace in the hole for the latter part of the decade when the Sportsnet television rights finally expire.
From the Leafs’ point of view, this makes it much easier to manage the two important contracts expiring for the 2024-25 season in
Kyle Clifford and Bobby McMann Auston Matthews and William Nylander. While the intention is and always has been to make this close to a blank check-type offer for Matthews, the salary cap increase also puts William Nylander back in play for the Leafs, and the Leafs will still have some money to manage. with the likely defensive starts of Jake Muzzin, TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano. (It can’t be said enough that the next two summers for the Leafs should be infinitely more interesting than this latest nap festival.)
It should probably be said that a rising salary cap is not an invitation to spend money like… well… a player who just received his first signing bonus, but there must certainly be some excitement about the possibilities. More money available is not a direct line to being able to add more. We will definitely see a parallel increase in player salaries, and the need to replace key defenders at the same time as the salary cap increases is something a smart organization would start planning for now, as it has the potential to drive less quality. in the market due to teams being able to re-sign their best players and the price increases for those who are available. I would say a smart team will have their ducks in a row before the cap count is known.
That all still seems like a long way off, but it’s ultimately good news and something teams need to start factoring into their roster-building decisions right away. Ideally, that extends the Leafs’ window of competition and reduces the need for a year or two back at any given time, but that obviously requires more thought than “yeah, more money.”
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