The Toronto Maple Leafs suddenly have a boatload of cap space.
They quietly placed Nathan Horton, Joffrey Lupul and Stephane Robidas on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) earlier this season — giving themselves the flexibility to operate more than $15-million above the $73-million cap for the remainder of the year.
That unlocks a world of possibilities in a cap-strapped league, especially since the cap itself is projected to rise only minimally in 2017–18.
It remains to be seen how the Leafs will use the cap space. Last year, one of their deadline moves was taking Brooks Laich’s contract off the Washington Capitals’ hands, for the price of Connor Carrick and a second-round draft pick.
But the Leafs are in a different position this season. They’re currently in the hunt for a playoff spot, and though their focus will remain long-term, if it’s the right deal, there’s at least the ability to be a serious player in the rental market.
The trade deadline is March 1.