Phil Kessel has not played for the Toronto Maple Leafs since trading him July 1, 2015 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In order to complete this trade, the Leafs had to keep $ 1.2 million of Kessel’s $ 8 million salary.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have to pay that $ 1.2 million over the life of Kessel’s contract. This means the team will continue to have that money against the salary cap until the end of the 2021-22 season.
It wouldn’t seem so onerous if the NHL’s salary cap continued to rise. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, the NHL has had to freeze the salary cap at $ 81.5 million for the next few seasons.
In the absence of a salary cap increase, NHL teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, are now caught in more stringent cap situations than they anticipated. Having Kessel’s $ 1.2 million on the books for two more seasons only makes things worse.
2020-21 Toronto Maple Leafs Maximum Salary
We’ve all seen how tight the salary cap situation in Toronto is last season to $ 81.5 million. When the NHL announced that the cap would remain at $ 81.5 million, we knew Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas would need to get creative.
Part of this creativity led to the professions of Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, which had a combined salary cap of $ 6.6 million. At first glance, this may seem forced to make his team worse because of the salary cap. Instead, the strength of the team’s draft and scout allowed them to have cheaper replacements that made Kapanen and Johnsson consumable.
With the savings, the Leafs were able to afford to add a top-of-the-line defenseman and a deep squad such as Jason Spezza ($ 700,000), then add Joe Thornton and Travis Boyd for the same minimum amount. Even with these good deals, the team is currently 1,049 million de dollars above the cap of $ 81.5 million.
Now the Leafs could do a minor trade to free up some space, but they don’t need it. The Leafs can rack up cap space throughout the season by being under the cap, which they can do by manipulating their roster and sending eligible players to minors as needed.
Still, without Kessel’s money, they could either skip this gymnastics or add another player.
2021-2022 Toronto Maple Leafs Maximum Salary
Right now, the team will have just under $ 13.550 million in cap space available for the 2021-22 season. The Leafs will have 16 unrestricted free agents (UFA) and six restricted free agents (RFA) heading into this season. Sounds like a lot, but most of the team’s main players are locked in.
The biggest name on the team’s UFA roster is the rookie goalie Frederik Andersen. He is entering the final season of his five-year contract worth $ 5 million. If the Leafs plan to keep it, you can bet it will take a big chunk of the $ 13.549 million cap the team has for the 2021-22 season.
The good news about this is that the squad has plenty of young players who are about to take the next step. These players are cheaper options that the team can use until the cap starts to rise again. Again, that $ 1.2 million the team will pay Kessel will make things tighter than the team would like. Then again, you have to think about the positives: Without getting out of Kessel’s contract, would the team ever have been bad enough to draft Auston Matthews?
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Can the team afford to keep Andersen and the fan favorite? Zach Hyman? Do they even want it? If they do, Kyle Dubas will have to get creative again in the next offseason.