One could present the case that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ adept contract management this off-season ensures financial flexibility as the NHL salary cap is set to rise. At the very least, it appears that was the team’s plan, as argued during a recent episode of The Maple Leaf’s Lounge, where a discussion about GM Brad Treliving’s strategic structuring of contracts positions Toronto well for the future. With potential cap increases, the team can adapt to changes, extend players, and thrive.
In a recent episode of The Hockey Writers podcast about the Maple Leafs, two of the site’s writers, Peter Baracchini and Jim Parsons, asked the crucial question: “Will the Maple Leafs find themselves in a favorable contract situation during the third and fourth years of Auston Matthews’ new extension?” The answer appears to be yes.
Looking ahead, the NHL salary cap is expected to jump. With that increase, how has the team done in maintaining its financial flexibility over the upcoming years? Will they be able to manage other contracts that might expire or need renewal in light of Matthews’ extension?
While he didn’t actually love the Matthews’ deal from a Toronto leverage perspective, Parsons is quick to credit the Maple Leafs’ management for its forward-thinking approach with the other contracts the team signed over the summer. They’ve strategically structured their contracts to ensure that, when the pivotal third and fourth years of Matthews’ extension arrive, several expensive players no longer need to be on the books.
If players like Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi have contributed significantly to the team’s success, they could be re-signed; or, they could find themselves elsewhere if they don’t prosper. If the team needs to open up valuable salary-cap space, it can do so.
The Maple Leafs Have Created Optimum Flexibility
This approach the Maple Leafs have taken gives them more flexibility to make decisions about the roster. It can potentially even accommodate extensions for players like William Nylander. Whether Nylander remains a part of the equation or not, the Maple Leafs seem well-prepared for the future. In fact, given the expected salary cap increases, the team could be sitting pretty.
The panel’s consensus is that the Maple Leafs are in a favorable position for the next two to three years, especially if the salary cap rises as it’s been projected to. Matthews’ contract, although substantial, doesn’t appear to be a crippling burden. Toronto’s future looks promising because the team will have the flexibility it needs to adapt to changing circumstances and make the most of its resources.
Treliving Has Done a Solid Job Manipulating the Options
GM Brad Treliving is the architect behind the Maple Leafs’ contract strategy. While his hands were tied with the Matthews deal, the panel believes he deserves commendation for his intelligent approach. His decisions have kept the team’s future open and flexible.
Treliving’s foresight has allowed the team to be well-prepared for the changing financial NHL landscape. With the expectation that the salary cap will rise in the coming years, his strategic planning has helped the organization structure contracts with an eye toward that future. In fact, he’s ensured that many of the pieces currently in place will become optional when the critical years of Matthews’ extension arrive.
Consequently, whichever way things work with Bertuzzi and Domi (for example), the Maple Leafs find themselves with both the salary cap space and the freedom to make decisions about the roster. These decisions can be based on evolving circumstances.
The Next Three Years Look Good for the Maple Leafs
Treliving’s management has helped the Maple Leafs move more comfortably into the next two to three years of the team’s future. Yes, Matthews will be the highest-paid player (for a while) in the NHL. Yet, his salary does not cripple the team.
Toronto’s flexibility with expiring contracts sets them up for a promising future, making Treliving look good in the process.
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