Leafs don't need to do anything to be cap compliant, but if they want to improve, here's how they can do it
BY DEAN CHAUDHRY JULY 28, 2023 (5:19 PM)
However the long-term injury to Jake Muzzin was always going to help alleviate a massive chunk of that negative salary cap and whatever they planned on doing with Matt Murray was going to get them closer to being cap compliant. What we all thought was going to be a no-brainer buyout turned into an LTIR-placement for the veteran goaltender who has had an unlucky run of injuries throughout his career.
Rolling with a 20-man roster, the Maple Leafs will become cap compliant and should allow them to field quite possibly their strongest roster to date in the Auston Matthews era, with the additions of Domi, Bertuzzi, Reaves and Klingberg.
If the Leafs need to clear cap space or want to acquire another defenseman - an improvement on what they already have - they have the option to move a couple guys off of the roster in Calle Jarnkrok, Sam Lafferty, and Conor Timmins. The first option is to move Jarnkrok's $2.1 million or they could find a suitor for both Lafferty and Timmins and keep Jarnkrok in the top-9.
The 31-year-old, Jarnkrok, has been a rather productive forward for the Maple Leafs and is signed for 3 more seasons. Lafferty, on the other hand, has a cap hit of $1.15 million on an expiring deal, while Timmins is locked up for 2 seasons at a $1.1 million AAV. However that would only be the case if they see the need to improve on what they already have.
A top-9 that has Tyler Bertuzzi-Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner, Max Domi-John Tavares-William Nylander, and Matthew Knies-David Kampf-Calle Jarnkrok is tough to beat with Morgan Rielly-T.J. Brodie, Jake McCabe-John Klingberg, and Mark Giordano-Timothy Liljegren to round out their defense corps.
With Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll combining for just $4.316 million and the rest of the team fitting barely under the salary cap, it will be tight throughout the season with injuries being the one thing that can derail them at any given moment. However, for the time being, Brad Treliving has done a pretty good job at addressing the depth, top of the lineup, and the goaltending situation in his first few months at the helm.