A decision of whether the Toronto Maple Leafs buyout of defenseman Jared Cowen will stand or not has been in limbo since just after the end of the Stanley Cup Final and according to the Sun’s Lance Hornby,
a final resolution of the dispute will not be reached until early to mid-October.
The 25-year-old defenseman was acquired from the Ottawa Senators along with forwards Milan Michalek, Colin Greening, Tobias Lindberg and a second round pick in the Dion Phaneuf deal last February. Cowen was immediately placed on IR for hip tightness, but was cleared medically before being placed on waivers later in the month.
After clearing waivers, Cowen was told that he would not play for Toronto and that the club would buy him out after the season and gave him permission to talk with other NHL clubs about a contract for next year.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman
reported in July that the defenseman had surgery on his doctor’s recommendation after the season. The grievance between Cowen and the Leafs is to be settled by an arbitrator, who has to decide whether the Toronto medical staff cleared the defenseman because he was actually healthy or to make the buyout possible.
The timeframe of the hearing puts the decision perilously close to the beginning of the regular season, which is when every NHL team has to be below the $73 Million salary cap.
After the signing of backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth, the Leafs are nearly $700,000 over the cap ceiling, but the club will be placing injured forward Nathan Horton, possibly defenseman Stephane Robidas and/or forward Joffrey Lupul on long-term injured reserve(LTIR) prior to the October 12th opener against the Ottawa Senators.
If it is determined that the Leafs were within their rights to buyout Cowen, they will clear his $3.1 Million cap hit for the 2016-17 season and gain a $650,000 credit on the cap for the upcoming season.
If it is found that Cowen cannot be bought out because of his injury status, the 2009 first rounder will remain on the roster and collect the $4.5 Million in actual salary owed to him for the final year of his contract. Based on his health status, Cowen could then be placed on LTIR to provide relief from his cap hit or placed on waivers and demoted to the AHL, which would remove $950,000 off the Leafs books.
The other aspect of Cowen remaining on the roster is that his deal would occupy a pro contract on the club’s 50-man pro contract limit. The Leafs are currently at 48 and have players like 2015 second round pick Jeremy Bracco and third rounder Martins Dzierkals still unsigned.
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