The National Hockey League and Player’s Association are working through the July 4th holiday weekend to hammer out the last details of a new collective bargaining agreement. Reports indicate that the agreement will extend through the 2025-26 season, giving the league stability and labor peace through the beginning of the next US broadcast contract.
While the new agreement appears to be a compromise on both sides, it will pose different issues for each of the 31 NHL clubs depending on how their roster is currently situated. Based on the information that has been made available so far, the new CBA will pose some unexpected challenges for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The salary cap is expected to stay flat at $81.5 Million for the next two seasons.
This will not be good news for Toronto, as they were hoping that the salary cap would go up over the next few years to allow for the re-signing of veterans like goalie Frederik Andersen, defenseman Morgan Rielly, and forward Zach Hyman or to add help on the blueline. The flat cap will likely force GM Kyle Dubas to make some difficult decisions, whether it be exposing a salaried player in the expansion draft or moving out someone like William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson to make room in other areas.
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35 and older contracts do not count against the cap if the player retires before the end of the deal, provided the deals are flat or ascending in value.
This could be a valuable tool for the Leafs in the future if they want to add veterans as support players like Jason Spezza going forward. The club signed Spezza to a one-year contract last summer and after a successful season, they will likely bring him back on another short-term deal, but there would be little or no negative ramifications if they had signed him to a multi-year deal, since it would provide security on the player’s end and cost certainty on the players end.
No changes are planned to other types of contracts or to signing bonuses.
There were some indicators that the use of heavy signing bonuses would be curtailed or at least limited to a certain percentage of the average annual value in a new CBA. That practice has been used by the Leafs as a counter over the last few years to combat other clubs like Tampa Bay, Arizona, Nashville and Florida, who can offer a lower salary because they are located in US states with no state tax.
If there are no changes, even though the Leafs will be cap strapped over the next few seasons, they will be able to follow the practice of low base salary/high signing bonus as they have done with John Tavares, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Auston Matthews, Alex Kerfoot, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, and Jake Muzzin with Hyman, Andersen and Rielly and other free agents.
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