Here’s the Leafs situation in a nutshell:
With this roster the team has 13.5M in capspace. To achieve this number Matt Murray was sent to the Marlies for (presumeably) the season. If the Leafs find a new home for Murray and don’t take any salary back in the deal, then the number rises to 17M. If he remains on the NHL roster, which is unlikely in my opinion, then it shrinks to 12.3M.
For the time being we’ll run with the scenario that they keep Murray and send him to the minors, where he’ll act as a veteran third stringer in case of injury and hopefully revive his career a little bit. Maybe at the deadline he’ll be more easily dealt to a rebuilding team.
From the estimated 13.5M in capspace, they need to re-sign Ilya Samsonov. I’ve seen estimates between 2.5-5M from fans everywhere, so who knows exactly how much that will cost them. I do think 5M is a little high, as he doesn’t have the track record to justify it, so I’m assuming it will be more of a bridge deal with a lower number. My guess is 2 years at 3.5-4M, but guessing contracts isn’t my strong suit either.
If I’m close, then the team actually has about 9.5-10M in capspace to fill out a minimum of 3 spots on the roster, plus, ideally, a 13th forward and/or 7th defender. While that seems positive, especially considering that those spots look as if they’re at the bottom of the roster in the above graphic, things can get a little tight if you want to see the team improve at the top of the lineup. With a thin free agency class, some are predicting even higher contracts than normal and they’re always too high on free agency day anyway, so if you want to attract a top 4 defender, for example, GMs may find themselves handing out contracts that even they’re not comfortable with.
In theory, the Leafs need to carve out about 1M for each of the two roster positions on the 4th line and another league minimum deal for a depth piece, whether its a defender or forward will depend on who they manage to sign elsewhere. This would leave about 6.5-7M in capspace for one big swing for a player that can be labeled a difference maker.
Again, this number shrinks if they overpay random depth players, such as Ryan Reaves, who has made at least 1.75M for the past 5 years and should be expected to make more than league minimum. Likewise, if they sign a good complementary player like Connor Brown, then it might make it impossible to go after a player like Scott Mayfield or Dmitry Orlov to help your defense.
The possibility is out there to go for 2-3 mid-level players and that may be the best solution. Miles Wood, Klim Kostin, Maxim Comtois, Connor Brown, Christian Fischer and many more could all help in one way or another.
How they approach helping a team that lacks a solid top 4 unit on defense and needs some grit and muscle up front is what I’m interested in seeing, but my expectations are tempered. I’m not expecting the Leafs to land any of the biggest names on the market, as I just don’t feel as if it’s their time to do so at the moment. Nor do I believe that many players would want to come into the current hostile environment, where many fans are frustrated with the lack of success and lack of change from the roster.
Have your say. Without moving any of the current roster (including Murray), how would you spend MLSE’s money today?