The Toronto Maple Leafs were among the busier teams (perhaps the busiest) during Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline. A week ago, it would have been nearly impossible to predict that being the case considering the team had virtually no salary cap space to work with and there was practically no way to take money on in deals without sending money out.
Yet, somehow, the Leafs added top-six grit in Nick Foligno ($5.5 million cap hit), forward depth in Riley Nash ($2.75 million cap hit), defensive depth in Ben Hutton ($950K cap hit) and goalie depth in David Rittich (2.75 million cap hit) without sending salary off the books, beyond the little that Alexander Barabanov took up.
Social media is buzzing today about how much Dubas was able to do, but they might be praising the wrong person. Dubas was asked about how instrumental Brandon Pridham was to the whole process of the Leafs deadline day and the GM didn’t shy away from talking about how much Pridham helped make his job a lot easier.
Pridman is technically the Assistant GM for the Leafs. More than that, he’s the team’s designated “cap guy”. He looks at the ins and outs of the salary cap and he finds holes to work his magic. He’s the Leafs’ Collective Bargaining Agreement specialist and he’s intimately knowledgeable about the numbers because he helped draft the CBA that came out of the 2012 lockout.
Dubas said of Pridham’s work this deadline,”He’s an indispensable part of the group… I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Brandon. Whatever awards there are for that position, I certainly think he should win them.” He spoke about how he’d been by him all along the way, coming up with strategies and ideas he thought could work and then pointing out when the Leafs were headed in a bad direction. If not for Pridham, there’s no way the Leafs are able to pull off the deals they did over the past two days.
Dubas said, “The ideas he comes up with, his ability to challenge me, optimize our cap space … he works tirelessly.”
How’d They Do It?
First, the Leafs are lucky that Frederik Andersen can be put on the shelf for the rest of the regular season. In his media avail after the deadline passed, Dubas wasn’t shy about saying Andersen will play again this season, but there’s absolutely no rush to bring him back before he’s ready. That was code for, ‘there’s no way we’ll say he’s ready before the playoffs start.’
Because of that, the Leafs had cap space through LTI they could use. The same went for Riley Nash who won’t be back before the postseason, therefore his cap hit doesn’t hurt the organization. As for Foligno, Rittich and everyone else the Leafs would have been looking at, salary retention was the name of the game.
They found a third team to broker a deal for Foligno, getting 50% retained off the top and then another 50% in the second trade. It left Toronto only having to cover 25% of Foligno’s salary. They then had Calgary retain 50% of Rittich’s contract too.
At the end of the day, Toronto has about $16.95 million worth of assets that will be available to them by the time the playoffs start. And, they are only paying $3.75 million for those assets throughout the rest of the regular season.
It’s sneaky, it’s a little bit questionable (when it comes to Andersen), but it’s well within the rules.
The only question now will be… does it work? The Maple Leafs gave up a 2021 1st round pick, plus a 4th-Round pick, along with 2022 3rd, 4th and 5th round picks.
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