How the new CBA Affects the Leafs


A Quick and Dirty Look at the new CBA and How It Affects the Leafs (All that Matters)

What World Juniors? The Marlies played, who cares? We’ve got NHL hockey back!

Right or wrong, that’s the attitude that is prevalent again, and while I enjoyed going to WHL games, getting up at 2am to watch prospects, and streaming Marlies games online, I am thrilled that we’ll get see the game played at its highest level this winter.

The coming weekend and half will likely see a whole summer’s worth of previews, speculation, and training camp analysis crammed in to it (personally I can’t wait to see the schedule, and plan a trip to Toronto), but I’ll get us started off with what we can expect for the Leafs out of the new CBA in the short and long term.

The first is how awesome is Cap Geek, and kudos to them for the amount of work they’re about to put in to their site over the next few weeks. Pretty sure we’ll all be living and dying by their site more than usual.

Now, what we know of the tentative agreement. I have only included items from the CBA that are outlined in this TSN article, as more information is confirmed I’ll revisit those points in future posts. I’d expect a flood of posts from all of us here at MLHS in the coming days, so check back often.

The league coming off their demand for a $60 million cap in Year 2, meeting the NHLPA’s request to have it at $64.3 million – which was the upper limit from last year’s cap. The salary floor in Year 2 will be $44 million.

The players ended up getting very close to the $65 million cap they were seeking in Year 2, and why shouldn’t they have? If there are issues with it they’ll be the ones eating the losses via escrow.

Short Term: The Leafs have 13 players under contract for 2013-14 and $39,675,000 committed to them. So that leaves the Leafs just under $25 million to bring in ten players. (Additional money and roster spots will be calculated in the Amnesty buyout section below).

What this means for the Leafs is 4.3 million dollars worth of flexibility they did not have under the owners agreement. That money can find you a reliable goaltender, a top six forward, or a top four defensemen in free agency or it allows you to increase the quality of players that you’d bring in across the board. The Leafs have and likely always will push at the upper limit of the cap, so basically this makes them slightly better than they would have been.

Counter to that, it means that we will still see some ridiculous bidding when it comes to free agency, and overpayments will happen with the same frequency we currently see. The Leafs have less money committed in 2013-14 than the Canucks, Flyers, Canadiens, Rangers, and Bruins, who would be the usual suspects when it comes to pursuing unrestricted free agents, so we can count this as an advantage for the Leafs.

Long Term: As the cap from here on out will be based on the 50/50 split, it will either increase or decrease from 64.3 million in 2014-15. Since revenues had already pushed the cap up to 70.2 previously and new TV contracts and expansion are on the horizon, it seems likely we’ll see it move up again.

If it were to decrease, it still would not tie the hands of the Leafs as presently only Grabovski, van Riemsdyk, and Liles are signed through 2014-15. There is still enough room to make full offers to key free agents like Kessel, Gardiner, and Phaneuf.

Each team will be allowed two amnesty buyouts that can be used to terminate contracts after this season and next season. The buyouts will count against the players’ overall share in revenues, but not the team’s salary cap.

Short Term: I think it’s safe to say that after this season ends we have seen the last of Mike Komisarek in a Leafs uniform, which opens up another roster spot and will add $4.5 million to the amount the Leafs can spend this summer, while only needing to replace a 6/7 defenseman. Unless over the course of the next 48 or 50 games Komisarek shows something under Carlyle that he wasn’t capable of under Wilson, this seems like a no brainer.

Where the situation gets sticky is the second buyout, and without knowing more details on this it seems hard to nail down the best alternative (luckily, I don’t think this will be the last time I talk buyouts here).

My first choice would be to leverage MLSE’s wealth and acquire a player from another team that they wish to buyout in a trade that would include an actual useful piece for the Leafs. (i.e. DiPietro and top prospect for Matthew Lombardi). Although the league has likely considered this potential situation and has created guidelines to prevent it.

The second option is John-Michael Liles, who still has some value to the organization today, but given his age and potential future depth of left shooting defensemen may find himself without a role as soon as next season. Give that Burke just signed him, it seems unlikely that this will happen.

Finally there are the unknowns. If Reimer falls flat this season he could be an option, the same can be said for Jay McClement; we have no idea of how successful he’ll be under Carlyle. There’s also the thought that if previous buyouts haven’t already been forgiven, can amnesty be given retroactively to the Tucker or Armstrong buyouts? If that is the case, I wouldn’t doubt that Burke would simply take those two buyouts off the books and leave us scratching our heads at Komisarek for another year.

Long Term:This is something of a short term reward, but arguably a Liles buyout has the potential to save the Leafs from a contract that looks unappealing in a couple of seasons. There is also the thought that this will free up some ice time for younger players next season which will have them more seasoned to the NHL game once the Leafs are through the rebuilding steps.

The salary variance on contracts from year to year cannot vary more than 35 per cent and the final year cannot vary more than 50 per cent of the highest year.

Short Term: Since Burke hasn’t really used this in contracts before it won’t have much impact on what he offers in contract negotiations, but it immediately closes a loophole that has kept the Leafs out of competition for top-tier free agents. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burke finds Toronto a worthwhile free agent (or two) this summer. Hopefully this marks the end of settling for players like Tim Connolly or Colby Armstrong.

Long Term: The Leafs have the space available this year to really be aggressive in what could be a strong free agent market while other big spenders have to shed salary. After this summer, the playing field will be even and it will then return to Canadian teams being hurt by higher tax rates and players choosing not play under a microscope. The short term seems crucial in taking advantage of this change.

A player contract term limit for free agents will be seven years and eight years for a team signing its own player.

Short Term: This is another practice that Burke already seems to follow; in fact he might still be reluctant to give over five years. Hopefully he can revise his personal code to fit with what will be needed to attract free agents and the Leafs can be buyers this summer while they have the money to burn.

Long Term: This is another nice step towards parity in the league, and should benefit the Leafs as it is closer to their current practices. It also eliminates the lifetime deals which prevent the Leafs from ever get a shot at other teams elite players. Even if the Leafs don’t get MacKinnon this summer, we’re only a decade from getting a chance to try again.

The draft lottery selection process will change with all 14 teams fully eligible for the first overall pick. The weighting system for each team may remain, but four-spot move restriction will be eliminated.

Short Term: The Leafs don’t need to be as efficient in their tanking. We can now embrace failing earnestly. In a deep draft where all of the non-playoff teams are going to end up with a blue chip player this summer, my pessimism says the Leafs will get swept in the first round of the playoffs and miss out on grabbing a true difference-making prospect.

Long Term: Another strong parity move by the league, but assuming the Leafs may still struggle in this season this gives the team a strong opportunity to build its prospect depth. It also moves us away from the “Tank Nation” mentality as there will be less incentive to finish dead last.

Teams can only walk away from a player in salary arbitration if the award is at least $3.5 million.

Short Term: Carl Gunnarsson is the only RFA who is eligible from arbitration this summer, and could very well receive an award in arbitration right in that $3-4 million area. Given the Leafs struggles on the blueline, I’d imagine he’d get signed to his award if arbitration does occur.

Long Term: The Leafs are a very young team. This could be something we see that could come back to burn them as players like Gardiner, Kadri, Frattin, etc. come up as free agents in coming years.

Of course, more details are bound to leak out on the CBA in the next day (hours?) but as of right now it looks like the Leafs could be in an excellent position to make some giant leaps forward this summer.

For now, I’m focusing on the two most important factors of the collective agreement:

  1. We get hockey back soon.
  2. We don’t need to worry about another interruption for ten years.