The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Tuesday night that they acquired David Clarkson and a 2020 fourth-round pick from the Vegas Golden Knights for backup goaltender Garret Sparks.
In the Leafs’ press release, they mentioned the fourth-round pick before Clarkson and that pretty much sums up the deal.
This trade was not made to improve the Leafs on the ice per se. This was done to open up cap space to bring Mitch Marner back.
Immediately after dealing Sparks, the Leafs officially announced (after it leaked Monday) that they signed Michal Neuvirth to a professional try out, giving the former Capitals goaltender the opportunity to make their team out of training camp.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 23, 2019
But the biggest name and the biggest part of Tuesday’s flurry of transactions was the Leafs’ acquisition of the 35-year-old Clarkson. Clarkson last played an NHL game in March 2016 after suffering a career-ending back injury (three degenerative discs in his spine).
NHL analyst Elliotte Friedman broke down the deal on Sportsnet.
“Remember the number $13 million,” Friedman said. “That’s basically what Toronto’s just done. Between David Clarkson’s contract, which has a year left on it and the bonus has been paid so most of the money has been paid out, Nathan Horton’s contract, which has a year left on it, and I think they will also probably have McDermott and Hyman on long-term injury at the start of the season — although both of those guys are coming back — between all four of those guys they’ve got about $13 million at the beginning of the season in dead money. So depending on what happens with Marner and depending what happens with anything else they want to do, right before the season they’re going to get as close to the cap as they can, then they’re going to put all these guys on LTIR. It’s going to give them some flexibility to do some things with their roster. Basically, they bought extra cap space to keep flexibility at the beginning of the year.”
According to Cap Friendly, the Leafs currently have a cap hit of $82.3 million – $735k above the $81.5 ceiling – but can exceed the threshold by as much as 10 percent ($92.05 million) before opening night rosters must be submitted in October. Since Clarkson and Horton will both be on LTIR for all of next season, their combined $10.55 million cap hits will not count against the salary cap, which should open up enough wiggle room to re-sign Mitch Marner longterm. But it’s still going to be an insane juggling act.
There is still much that can happen between now and Oct 1, but by acquiring David Clarkson’s contract, the #Leafs could now build a roster with a total projected cap hit as high as $92,050,000, and then place both Horton & Clarkson on LTIR to cover the $10.55M difference.
Another option for the #Leafs is to build a roster right up until the $81.5M ceiling, then place both Clarkson & Horton on LTIR once the season starts, and giving the club $10.55M in additonal cap space. This scenario is only likely if Marner doesn’t sign before the season begins.
One thing is for certain. Unless the #Leafs trade several larger contracts, they’ll most likely be using LTIR this season. This would also suggest that they’ll have a very difficult time accruing cap space as the season progresses, and any bonuses earned will result in an overage.
#Leafs could also build a roster that has a projected cap hit of $89,913,333 (or $8,413,333 above the ceiling). They then place Horton, Dermott & Hyman on LTIR on Oct 1 to cover the difference. Finally they place Clarkson on LTIR on Oct 2, giving them $5.2M in additional space.
Got it? Simple right?
Meanwhile, Michal Neuvirth, according to Friedman, turned down several better NHL deals for a PTO with the Leafs.
“He is apparently really optimistic,” Friedman reported on Neuvirth, who once said of Braden Holtby his “weakest competition yet”. “From what I heard, Neuvirth had options elsewhere in the league on much more firm deals. He turned them down to take the PTO in Toronto.”
This is all being done to get 22-year-old Mitch Marner signed, potentially, longterm. Marner had 94 points in 82 games last season and his agent, Darren Farris, has been asking for similar money and term to Auston Matthew’s five-year, $51.8 million pact ($11.63 million cap hit). UFA signing John Tavares is also signed to a seven-year, $77 million deal ($11 million cap hit).
Marner would not say much during his recent charity tournament except that the process has gone “good” and “I haven’t paid any attention at all.”
He added, “the agent’s doing all that stuff, he’s dealing with everything. I just want to be in touch when something’s about to be done.”
Mitch Marner gives @markhmasters the latest update on his contract negotiations – including if an offer sheet is an option – and speaks about the 2nd Annual Marner All-Star Invitational Charity (@MarnerAssist). pic.twitter.com/Uy75IbAKQU
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) July 18, 2019