One interesting cap loophole may help the Leafs sign Patrick Kane to a 1-year deal

Published September 13, 2023 at 3:26 PM

With NHL training camps set to open this weekend, we're about to see the Patrick Kane chatter begin to pick up again. A couple of short weeks ago, Kane revealed that he would begin entertaining offers during training camp and the preseason, and there are expected to be plenty of potential suitors for the 3-time Stanley Cup champion. He may not sign, however, until November or December, as was originally projected in his 4-6 month recovery timeline.

During a recent appearance on TSN 1050, former NHLer Dave Poulin revealed that, as long as Kane is cleared to return and that his hip issues are behind him, he expects the Maple Leafs to be one of the primary teams who will look to enlist Kane's services. The problem here is that the Leafs are currently over the salary cap by nearly $3M. So how can the Leafs afford Kane if he's not willing to take a league minimum deal? Well, the answer isn't as complicated as some might think.

Kane is turning 35 years old on November 19th. If he does wish to sign in Toronto and if he opts to remain unsigned through the month of October and the front half of November, he'll be able to ink a 35+ contract as of November 19th. If he does that, the Leafs could, in theory, offer him a 35+ contract for the remainder of this season at $775K, which is the league's minimum salary, and then tack on performance bonuses.

How would this work? Well, his base salary would be $775K this season. This would remain his cap hit no matter how many performance bonuses he hit. Let's say, for example, the Leafs offered Kane his $775K salary, plus an extra $1M if he plays in at least half of their games this season (41 games). Then they could tack on an extra $1M if he reaches the 50-point plateau. Then they could tack on an extra $1M if Kane produces 20 goals. In this situation, Kane's total salary will end up being $3.775M for this season, all while carrying a $775K cap hit.

The kicker here is that if the Leafs do opt to go the route of the bonus-laden 35+ deal, they'd be on the hook for the bonus overages next summer when the salary cap goes up. However, that's also when the new Auston Matthews and William Nylander contracts kick in. In the case of the example above, they'd be stuck paying $3M against the cap next season. That's not exactly ideal, but it is possible.

There's also the possibility, though, that the money doesn't matter much to Kane, who has earned more than $115M in his career, according to CapFriendly. Maybe he simply wants to sign with a contending team to pursue another Stanley Cup. In that situation, perhaps Toronto is an attractive market and perhaps he'd even be willing to settle for lower bonuses.

Only time will tell how this one develops, but if the Leafs and Kane do wish to partner on a 35+ deal, it's certainly do-able under the right circumstances.
September 13   |   230 answers
One interesting cap loophole may help the Leafs sign Patrick Kane to a 1-year deal

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