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Four Players On The Toronto Maple Leafs Account For Half Of The Salary Cap

from Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star,

...given that Tavares and hard-negotiating colleagues Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander will combine to earn about 50 per cent of the $81.5-million salary cap next season, the top-heavy roster has created a problematic imbalance in Leafland.

The imbalance, for now, is financial. Time will tell if it gets personal. While the Leafs have spent the off-season attempting to address various weaknesses — adding to their depth on defence while addressing the lack of “grit and work ethic” acknowledged by team president Brendan Shanahan at last season’s end — they’ve also created the potential for a dressing-room divide.

At the top of the food chain is a few star players who, if they don’t perform superbly, can be easily framed as greedy hogs who’ve commandeered the trough. Meanwhile, there’s a larger group of modestly paid but still important players who can make the case — as Mikheyev already has — that they have, unlike their highest-paid brethren, sacrificed for the cause. Count among that cadre veteran grit provider Wayne Simmonds, who signed on for a modest $1.5 million; Joe Thornton, the 41-year-old Hockey Hall of Famer in waiting who signed for the veteran minimum of $700,000; and Jason Spezza, another $700,000 lifer. Thornton and Spezza aren’t the only potentially key contributors who’ve jumped at the chance to play for the Leafs even though they will earn $1 million or less next season. The list also includes Zach Bogosian, Jimmy Vesey and KHL defenceman Mikko Lehtonen.

Marner, a year after engaging in the hardest of hardball negotiations with the club that brought him a six-year deal worth an annual $10.893 million, sounded more than slightly tone deaf this week when he lauded the willingness of so many of the new arrivals to join the Leafs for relatively humble wages.

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Comments

Red Winger's avatar

Recipe for disaster? Maybe.

We’ll see what these Leaf leaders are really made of.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 10/22/20 at 10:10 AM ET

Avatar

It’s not that adding a couple of key veteran additions to
a team that’s already close can’t get them over the hump.
We saw that with the Wings way back when.

But Spezza, Thornton, and even Simmonds given the roll of
injuries and his hard game, are at the end of their careers.

I’m not sure trying to graft on some big names from outside
is going to work the same as having a team develop and gel
together and learn grit and resilience more organically.
I’m not sure Simmonds is much better than Kyle Clifford at this point
- maybe his hands are, but not in terms of skating, hitting, or toughness.
Thornton is really slow. He and Spezza are both basically bigger, slower aging
assists guys. They all have to be deployed situationally.
Thornton rarely gets the penalties called against him that he deserves, but both
he and Simmonds could be penalty magnets at bad times.

And what does it say, really, that the guys who got all the money aren’t leaders
and can’t or won’t sacrifice to play the right way when needed?
There is such a chasm in age and pay between the guys being added as
designated leaders and the stars who got paid before they proved anything more
than putting up gaudy regular season point totals.

The roster does look better in some ways. Brodie and Bogosian might really help.
The bottom six at forward looks a little more proven.
The depth in goal is much better than this time last year.

But I keep coming back to the big four stars and the big three veterans
and I’m not sure it’s the right mix to contend.

Posted by lefty.30 on 10/22/20 at 11:08 AM ET

Avatar

And the Leafs are almost certainly going to face the same situation for the next few years. It’ll be a patchwork to fill out the roster with low cost guys they hope can make a significant impact. If they actually like any of the guys they brought in this year, they’ll have a difficult time keeping them next year.

Most teams get into salary cap trouble AFTER having success in the playoffs. This team is in trouble before having won a single round. If they can’t make it work with this group it could get ugly.

The biggest thing that would bother me is that their 4 top $$$ players are all forwards. The D while adequate, isn’t all that special. Adding slow forwards to the mix isn’t going to help the D.

Posted by evileye on 10/22/20 at 11:24 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

The Leafs are the new Sharks.

There, I said it.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Somewhere West of Detroit on 10/22/20 at 11:44 AM ET

Avatar

In general I think the strategy of committing a large percentage of your cap to a small handful of elite players and then filling out the rest with cheap vets and ELCs is a good one. The question when it comes to Toronto specifically is whether or not they identified the right mix of elite players to make the strategy work.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 10/23/20 at 06:41 AM ET

Avatar

There is the right mix in terms of specific players but
also the decision to invest so much in four forwards.

It’s definitely smarter (and where the league has been going)
to pay for what prime years are now, rather than overpaying
a guy who he used to be. But paying such an extremely
high amount to two young forwards before they’ve shown much
ability as leaders or playoff performers sends a questionable message
to them and to their teammates.

And, in all likelihood, you have to keep shuffling through
players willing to play for the lowest end salaries to fill out the roster
at all. Certainly it would have made life easier if Dubas could
have focused on paying four forwards a lot, but saving 3,4,5 million
dollars collectively. It started with Tavares and no one else was willing to
sacrifice a little to maximize team opportunity to win.

Posted by lefty.30 on 10/23/20 at 09:05 AM ET

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