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Free agent additions have Leafs in temporary cap crunch

July 9, 2017, 4:50 PM ET [166 Comments]
Mike Augello
Toronto Maple Leafs Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are in better shape than many NHL clubs in having their contractual house in order. After Marlies defenseman Justin Holl and winger Zach Hyman agreed to new deals last week, only RFA forward Connor Brown is unsigned.

The dilemma that Toronto faces is that after reloading their minor league affiliate and adding veteran free agents Patrick Marleau, Ron Hainsey and Dominic Moore, the Leafs have just two spots under the 50-man pro contract limit and less than $1 Million in summer cap space.

NHL clubs can exceed the $75 Million salary cap by 10% because injured player’s salaries count against the cap during the summer. The Leafs are currently $3.92 Million over the cap, which would leave slightly over $3.5 Million to re-sign Brown, but according to Cap Friendly, there are other factors that count against the cap during the off-season that leave Toronto with just $421,062 available.

The lack of open roster spots has already cost the Leafs a prospect they might have wanted to keep, as the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran reported earlier this week that 2012 draft pick Dominic Toninato will become an unrestricted free agent in August.

The big center was offered an AHL contract after the Leafs free agent spree (as they have been trying to do a number of their lower draft picks in recent months), but the 23-year-old declined the offer and will sign elsewhere later this summer.

The combination of being pressed up against the roster limit and the salary cap likely means that Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello’s summer work is far from over.

Toronto could move out extra bodies such as forwards Eric Fehr, Josh Leivo or defenseman Martin Marincin, pull off a deal off multiple pieces for one player, as they did two years ago in the trade for Michael Grabner.

Fehr’s role with the club is undefined after not being claimed by Vegas in the expansion draft and the signing of Moore as the Leafs fourth line center and his $2 Million would open up space to sign Brown to a bridge deal.

Leivo was a frequent scratch last season and may face a similar fate in 2017-18, while Marincin may be behind rookie Travis Dermott and Swedish imports Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman as a bottom pairing option going into training camp this September.

The other looming question is whether Lamoriello plans to maintain the status quo after signing Marleau and keep veterans James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak going into the final year of their contracts or move one or both to clear salary and obtain help on the blueline.

Van Riemsdyk may be the Plan B for teams involved in trying to acquire forward Matt Duchene from Colorado and the lack of movement on that front could be holding up a deal involving Toronto.

Bozak could be an enticing target for a team looking for a depth center with a short-term left on his deal, but is the 31-year-old center valuable enough to bring the blueliner the Leafs need in return??

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