The Toronto Maple Leafs were a big part of the franchise’s future when Morgan Rielly agreed to an 8-year extension worth $ 60 million. In the short term, this deal ends the uncertainty surrounding the team’s longest-serving player. However, in the long run, the contract adds to an already unsustainable situation. As of next season, five players are worth $ 48 million, or nearly 60% of the total budget allocated to the entire squad. That kind of calculation has hampered the team for three offseason and will continue to hurt for the foreseeable future.
The teams have 20 players on the bench, now five Leafs, a quarter of the bench, are taking up well over half the budget. Since signing Core Four, Kyle Dubas has filled his list with cheap short-term contracts while letting quality players walk in free agency. Unfortunately, this plan has not moved the needle. The team leveled off, if not slightly decreased.
Related: Maple Leafs Extend Morgan Rielly by 8 Years
It seemed that some relief was coming; Toronto was finally getting rid of $ 1.2 million in no-cap space. Phil Kessel’s 8-year, $ 8 million contract expires at the end of this season. The Maple Leafs have maintained that annual success since they traded it to Pittsburgh after the 2014-15 season. It is also believed that the cap will be increased by $ 1 million by the following season. But before that money materialized, Dubas spent it all, plus $ 300,000, giving Rielly a raise of $ 2.5 million.
Maple Leafs defense run out of money
The most obvious budgetary impact hits Jack Campbell; we’re going to get there, but that kind of budgeting has far-reaching implications. Rielly is worth her $ 7.5 million per year extension when you compare other comparable salaries. However, the defensive unity and future of this group is now complicated.
Rasmus Sandin, who the Leafs appeared to be grooming for the role of Rielly, is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. His entry-level contract paying just under $ 900,000 expires and it needs to be increased. He struggled last year, but he took the team out of the camp and started every game this season. The first-round pick in the 2018 draft belongs to the second power play unit and has recorded north of 15 minutes per game. His new contract won’t break the bank, but it will be a raise. Her roommate is William Nylander, and the couple share the same agent. We know how Nylander’s re-signing went in 2017-18.
Timothy Liljegren is also expected to become a restricted free agent. The 2017 first-round pick is approaching the level of a bust. He was not on the team after training camp because he played few games in the NHL. However, the Maple Leafs’ early struggles gave Liljegren a second chance, and he looks set to make the most of it. If Toronto wants to quit the 22-year-old, he could earn more than his $ 860,000 a year.
The Maple Leafs are hoping that Justin Holl’s early fall is just a phase, and that he will return to the constant d-man we saw in the first half of last season. Nonetheless, if that proves to be more of a problem, Toronto will have to look for a replacement, if not this season and then the next. He earns $ 2 million, but with the defenseman growing in popularity in the NHL each season, a suitable replacement will cost more.
Money-strapped Maple Leafs
The advanced group has already faced a significant disparity. Some of the league’s highest paid millionaires are in the top six, as well as league minimum gold players in the bottom six. This disparity will only increase thanks to the money already spent on Rielly.
It’s no secret that the Russian wants more money and change. In his last negotiations, he went into arbitration looking for $ 2.7 million a year. Last offseason, he wanted a job. He is now in the final year of his $ 1.65 million contract. Unfortunately for his bargaining power, he is hurt again. While that may make him more affordable next offseason, it looks like Mikheyev’s time in Toronto may not last beyond this season.
Ondrej Kase is playing for $ 1.25 million and will become a free agent at the end of this season. Considering his concussions in recent years, it was a bet to sign. But it is paying off, if he continues and stays healthy he would get more money on the free market next season.
Pierre Engvall is the player who sometimes looks like a $ 4million type of contender, and other times should be sent home. He also earns $ 1.25 million and his contract expires at the end of this season. Engvall will assume the first place of call when Mikheyev returns. He will have every chance of earning a salary, maybe a bigger one, next season.
Jason Spezza is the gift that continues to be given to the Maple Leafs. He is on his third one-year minimum contract in the league. He said he would take less if he could, and Toronto will continue to take him for as long as he produces. But how much juice is left in these 38-year-old legs?
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As noted, the most apparent problem is Campbell. The starting goaltender earns a measly $ 1.65 million, the 46th highest-paid goaltender in the league. His replacement, who is having a horrible start, Petr Mrazek, earns $ 3.8 million. Campbell’s early performances and strong stats from last season would point to a hefty pay rise.
The Maple Leafs have learned no lessons from past wage cap struggles; they doubled down on strategy that hasn’t taken them out of the first round of the playoffs in the past five seasons. Losing a vital player like Zach Hyman just a few months ago due to budget constraints should have been a wake-up call. Instead, Toronto will be scraping the bottom of the barrel, looking for cheap contracts to play with the millionaires again next season.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with over two decades of experience. He has played on the ice for the World Junior Championships, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian children, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas across the country watching all levels of the game.