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Chances of Friction in Maple Leafs Locker Room Over Salary Tiers

James Mirtle of The Athletic outlines the odds that there could be potential friction in Toronto over the team’s division in salary structure.

James Mirtle of The Athletic took some time in a recent mailbag article to discuss a number of Toronto Maple Leafs matters. Among them, he was asked if the team might have issues moving forward based on the way the roster was constructed in terms of salary. More specifically, Mirtle was asked if the very obvious tiers of pay might become a point of dissension in the locker room.

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While every team has stars who make big bucks and lower-end depth guys who don’t, if you look at the way this Leafs team is built, there is a clear division of salary at the top and a number of players at the bottom. This offseason, GM Kyle Dubas made that gap more pronounced when he added a number of players for league minimum salaries (or close to), many of whom have some pretty big cache behind their names.

Joe Thorton used to be one of the best centers in the NHL. He’ll be making $700K. Wayne Simmonds is coming off a $5 million contract, he’ll be making $1.5 million. Jason Spezza is making $700K, Zach Bogosian $1 million, and Jimmy Vesey $900K. Some of these players may have a bigger role with the team than their salaries suggest.

If the top-end guys on the Maple Leafs roster don’t produce, it’s certainly possible there’s some room for jealousy and frustration, but Mirtle doesn’t believe that will be an issue. He notes that having one group of players make so much more than the other group is not new in the NHL.

He looked back to a time in the NHL when that was almost the norm. Citing specifically the Paul Kariya deal in Anaheim, Kariya made $10 million of the $35 total team salary (good for 28%) in 1999. Nobody seemed to put up much of a fuss at that time. The reason was because it was expected the best players would get the bulk of the money.

Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner - NHL Trade Rumors
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner – NHL Trade Rumors

It Still Works That Way In the NHL

Mirtle explained the Leafs should be fine because the best players are still getting most of the money. Sure, Thornton, Spezza and Simmonds have some name notoriety, but the Leafs aren’t expecting them to carry the bulk of the offense.

Mirtle explained:

Where I think it’s fine in Toronto is, for the most part, the players are making what they should based on what they’ll contribute to the team. The low-cost veterans they’re adding like Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza are happy to play for what they’re getting if it means being a part of the organization. 

The idea was to add veterans to help the stars of the team and these veterans should know their role. If the Maple Leafs have to rely on the older guys to carry the offense, there’s a much bigger problem going on than the division of salaries.

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