Looking forward, Leafs poised to maintain long-term cap flexibility

Nicolas Lethbridge
July 30, 2023  (10:09 PM)

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been a team who has been plagued by cap issues for years. However, as we look into the future, they appear to be a team finally looking at maintaining some cap flexibility in the coming seasons.

The next two season will be defining for the Maple Leafs in terms of how they sign their players. The summers of both 2024 and 2025 have their challenges that await but the anticipation of the rising cap offers some sweet relief to each of the NHL's cap teams, which includes the Leafs.

We all know about Auston Matthews and William Nylander, whose deals will kick in begining in 2024-25. We're also looking at the UFA class in 2024, which consists of Bertuzzi, Domi, Klingberg, Brodie, Gio, Samsonov, as well as RFA's Liljegren and Robertson. However, the 2025 off-season will bring forth its own set of challenges, with Marner, Tavares, McCabe, Knies, Holmberg, and Woll all requiring new deals as well.
As it stands, the Leafs only have 4 players that are officially signed past the 2024/25 season. Those players are Morgan Rielly, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Reaves and David Kampf. This is obviously by design, with the Leafs' brass looking gain access to as much cap space as possible, which will allow them to re-up Matthews, Nylander and Marner. Once those 3 are signed and we have a better idea of where the team sits from a long-term cap perspective, the Leafs can figure out how they'd like to allocate the rest of their cap space.
As fans of this team, we all hope that the Leafs' front office has learned something about negotiating with their players following the Kyle Dubas era, where players without leverage were given carte blanche, essentially, and dictate the terms of their deals. Current Management will be taking cues from the Bruins, Aves, Lightning and other teams who have succeeded at the negotiating table by tailoring contracts for the betterment of the team, strengthening the squad through fair term and fair cap hits that both sides can live with and, ultimately, win with.
All signs point to newly-appointed GM Brad Treliving delivering where Kyle Dubas had failed. He has already held his ground with RFA goaltender Ilya Samsonov and gone through arbitration. We can only be encouraged from what we've seen this summer with the personnel he's brought in so far, including Bertuzzi, Domi, Klingberg, and Reaves. He of these 4, only Reaves got term, and he took the cheapest deal in order to get it. Treliving was able to get all of Bertuzzi, Domi and Klingberg on low-risk single year "show me" deals.
Right now, Treliving's focus is on making sure he doesn't blink first with Nylander or Matthews - and for good reason. These deals will set the foundation for the upcoming Marner and Tavares negotiations next summer and getting a clear cut win with 34 and 88 could mean an easier pair of negotiations next summer with 16 and 91.
One thing is clear in all of this. The Leafs have their priorities in order, committing to paying their stars rather than overpaying supporting talent on multi-year deals like some of the other teams around the NHL. Hopefully, their strategy pays off and we can lock up Matthews, Marner and Nylander through the remainder of their prime years and leave enough money on the table to be able to surround them with the right pieces that will give this team the best chance possible to win a Stanley Cup.
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