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Maple Leafs Can Cut Bait, Prioritize Flexibility Post Nylander Deal

The Toronto Maple Leafs may have committed huge money to William Nylander, but it doesn’t mean their stuck. What are the options?

The new debate (even though it isn’t really new at all) is whether a “top-heavy” team can contend for a championship in a salary-capped NHL. In Toronto, that debate has become a focal point for the Maple Leafs, particularly with William Nylander’s recent eight-year, $92 million deal. The concern revolves around dedicating a substantial portion of the salary cap to a handful of players and whether it allows room to build a competitive team around them. But, it might not be a huge deal if the team prioritizes cap flexibility and gets comfortable with the idea of letting certain players leave.

As Greg Wyshynski of ESPN points out, Toronto, facing the challenge of a ranking of 27th in The Athletic’s prospect pipeline ratings, needs to navigate this dilemma. The best way to do so it to ensure that prospects develop and join the high-priced stars, over-delivering at less-than-market rates on entry-level deals. That’s easier said than done when the pipeline isn’t stacked.

Should drafting and developing fail, there is another way, notes Wyshysnki.

Can the Maple Leafs Cut Bait With Some Key Players? Will They Focus on the Cap?

The current makeup of the Leafs’ roster offers flexibility. With 12 players already under contract for the next season, totaling $66.4 million in payroll, there is significant roster flexibility around the core of expensive players. All the Leafs need to do is convince those who are already here to sign at a discount, or be willing to let them leave.

Expiring contracts in the coming years include Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Saying goodbye or leveraging their respective desires to stay are key. If GM Brad Treliving can get it right, it will provide the Leafs with additional cap space and flexibility. Get it wrong, and things could get complicated.

Mitch Marner and John Tavares future in Toronto

Tavares, whose contract concludes after 2024-25, may return at a significant discount, considering his age. He already said he wants to stay, it will be up to the Leafs to test how far he’s willing to go. On the back-nine of his career, they’ll need to preach him being flexible despite still being relatively productive.

Marner, another crucial piece of the “Core Four,” also comes off the cap after 2024-25. Are the Leafs willing to hold firm where they didn’t on Nylander? They may have motivation considering his postseason performance doesn’t match up with potential contract expectations. If he’s moved, that’s a big ticket off the books.

Who Are The Maple Leafs Willing to Say Goodbye To?

While the debate over retaining Marner and others may persist, the Leafs have a level of flexibility that allows them to make strategic choices in roster construction. They are not locked in and should the team choose to cut bait, they can do so. Treliving can hit reset on the goalies. He can move Marner. Tavares can be told what the team is willing to do and put the ball in his court. The one-year deals Bertuzzi and Domi signed could be the extent of their stints in Toronto.

The longevity of Nylander’s eight-year deal doesn’t tether the team to a bloated roster, providing them the opportunity to adapt. This isn’t to say that the team that is ultimately put together when all of that change is said and done, but there are ways to rework the roster if it comes up short this season.

Next: Canucks’ Elias Pettersson to Get Shocking Number After Nylander Deal



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