NHL Free Agency started with a bang this year. Approximately 70 players signed new contracts on July 1, but only one with the Leafs.
Brian Burke stood pat and did not spend any serious money. The Leafs made six minor signings. Matt Frattin, Jussi Rynnas, Ryan Hamilton, Mike Kostka, and Jay McClement received new contracts from the Maple Leafs.
Burke stood true to his word. He addressed depth with a couple of signings and vowed to make further enhancements to the roster via trade, James van Riemsdyk being case in point.
Since free agency started I have been thinking to myself whether staying pat on big names and other free agents was a good move on Brian Burke’s part.
Well, I have come to a conclusion.
If the Maple Leafs start the season with the roster as it stands (which is not going to happen), they would have just under $6.5 million in cap space. Notice that I added Kulemin, Scrivens, Franson, and Rosehill in to keep them accounted for cap wise.
The roster would like this:
Joffrey Lupul ($4.250m) / Tyler Bozak ($1.500m) / Phil Kessel ($5.400m)
James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Mikhail Grabovski ($5.500m) / Nikolai Kulemin ($3.000m)
Matt Frattin ($0.925m) / Jay McClement ($1.500m) / Tim Connolly ($4.750m)
Mike Brown ($0.737m) / David Steckel ($1.100m) / Clarke MacArthur ($3.250m)
Jay Rosehill ($0.600m) /
Matthew Lombardi ($3.500m) /
Dion Phaneuf ($6.500m) / Mike Komisarek ($4.500m)
John-Michael Liles ($3.875m) / Carl Gunnarsson ($1.325m)
Jake Gardiner ($1.117m) / Korbinian Holzer ($0.575m)
Cody Franson ($0.840m) /
James Reimer ($1.800m)
Ben Scrivens ($0.950m)
Darcy Tucker ($1.000m) / Colby Armstrong ($1.000m)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $70,200,000; CAP PAYROLL: $63,743,333; BONUSES: $212,500
CAP SPACE (23-man roster): $6,456,66
This allows the Leafs a lot of flexibility in terms of trades.
It is more than obvious that if Burke were to make a trade for a player like Luongo, Nash, Stastny, or Ryan there would be some salary going back. Players like Bozak, Kulemin, MacArthur, Lombardi, and Connolly most likely will be the players shipped out along with prospects and picks.
If I were to remove Scrivens, Kulemin, Rosehill, and Franson who have not been officially signed yet, the Leafs would have just over $11 million in cap space. That is more than enough to add a Stastny($6.6 mill) and Luongo($5.33 mill) or Ryan($5.1 mill) and Luongo($5.33 mill), so you can see where I am going with this.
Burke vowed to make changes through trade and his cap space is his biggest asset.
If Burke were to spend in free agency then trades would get more difficult as he would have to get more creative to make the money work in this crazy new cap era of the NHL.
The Leafs have flexibility now and in the future as they only have 11 players signed for next season and more than $32 million in cap space come July 1, 2013.
So if you were like me and started to get antsy during the free agent frenzy, don’t worry. There is a plan. One that Burke has re-iterated over and over.
I bet the scouts along with Burke, Nonis, and Fletcher are huddled together right now going over ever roster in the NHL trying to identify which player makes sense for the Leafs going forward.
James van Riemsdyk is the best example. He is young with upside and signed for cheap long term.
Burke is not looking for rentals. He is looking to for young and talented players that will play for the Blue and White for a long time.
Believe it or not Leaf fans, but Burke just may be building this thing for the long run.