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The Toronto Maple Leafs have seen a great deal of roster changeover this summer, with Frederik Andersen, Zach Bogosian, Zach Hyman, Nick Foligno and Riley Nash departing via free agency due to cap constraints. GM Kyle Dubas limited by the $81.5 million salary cap, spent a healthy chunk replacing Andersen with Petr Mrazek and added lower cost free agents in Nick Ritchie, David Kampf, Ondrej Kase, Kurtis Gabriel and Michael Bunting, but still has not added a veteran blueliner to replace Bogosian and is already over the cap limit.
The question now is whether Dubas will resort to the same tactic he used during the 2019 offseason and use long term injured reserve to create some maneuvering room for the upcoming season. In late July 2019, Toronto acquired former Leaf David Clarkson from Vegas along with a fourth round pick for goalie Garret Sparks.
The move was strategic as it allowed the Leafs to place Clarkson and injured winger Nathan Horton on LTIR when they were up against the cap to allow them more space. This type of move is legal under the current CBA and is something that teams being squeezed by the cap are resorting to.
Tampa Bay lost third liners Yanni Gourde in the expansion draft and Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow in free agency, but were still well over the cap. GM Julien Brisebois then moved out the $5 million salary of center Tyler Johnson to Chicago along with a future second round pick for defenseman Brent Seabrook.
The three-time Cup winning blueliner announced earlier this year that he would be unable to continue playing due to a variety of injuries, but did not officially retire because he is owed $15.5 million over the next three years of his eight-year $55 million contract.
Currently Tampa is $5.75 million over the cap limit, but when Seabrook’s $6.875 million cap hit is placed on LTIR before the start of the season, the Lightning will be cap compliant.
Toronto might go down this road with a team like Anaheim, who has injured center Ryan Kesler with one year remaining at $6.875 million. The Ducks are more than $19 million under the cap and just over the cap floor, but would rather spend money adding players that can help them in the future instead of $6.675 million on a player who will never play again.
It is possible that the Leafs could take on Kesler and get a mid-round pick from Anaheim as they did with Clarkson and give Dubas an opportunity to add another player or two before the season or bank cap space until the trade deadline to make key acquisitions then.
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