It’s no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the richest team in the NHL, but despite that they’ve only made the playoffs once in the last nine seasons. Of course, that covers the salary cap era and it’s not coincidental that the Maple Leafs’ struggles have coincided with that change.
The salary cap has substantially diminished the potential on-ice impact of Toronto’s financial strength and the team has been unable to find any meaningful success without that edge. That’s something they’ve been working to remedy, but this summer they’ve also exercised one of the few advantages that their financial situation affords them.
While Toronto didn’t make any blockbuster signings this summer, they have handed out one-way contracts to forwards Daniel Winnik, David Booth, Mike Santorelli, and Petri Kontiola. That brings them up to 16 forwards signed to one-way deals, but nine of those contracts are worth $1.5 million annually or less. That’s important because while the new CBA made burying big contracts in the minors impractical, teams still have some leeway with smaller one-way deals.
More specifically, the first $925,000 of a player’s annual cap hit in 2014-15 won’t count against the ceiling while the person is in the minors, per Cap Geek. That’s allowed Toronto to gamble on promising, but risky players like Booth despite the fact that its only adding to a training camp logjam. Toronto is in a position to bury some of its one-way contracts in the minors to alleviate the cap burden, and that’s exactly what will happen unless trades or waiver claims alter the Leafs’ situation.
Other franchises might balk at employing a strategy that will likely lead to an inflated AHL payroll, but without the ability to significantly outspend teams the traditional way, this is one of the few advantages that the Leafs still have.