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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Dave Nonis and the Toronto Maple Leafs Have Mishandled Cap Space

Dave Nonis and the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in an interesting predicament. With just over a week till training camp there remains two key players who have not been re-signed- Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson. Arguably the Leafs best defenceman and most promising prospect remain un-signed as the Leafs try and find a way to keep both on the roster under the cap.

It's hard to feel sorry for the Maple Leafs who have poorly mismanaged their cap space this offseason. They currently have just under $4.9 million left in cap spca, but they've spent and waisted a lot of money this offseason. It all started with Tyler Bozak who was demanding first line money despite not being worth first line money. The Leafs knew they would have to give Bozak a decent pay day and were determined not to over pay for him, but they ended up handing him a 5 year $21 million deal.

Next we move to David Clarkson. I'm still not entirely sure why the Leafs needed a player like Clarkson, but he can be a valuable comodity and the Leafs decided they wanted that comodity. Problem is they massively overpayed giving him a 7 year deal worth $36.75 million. A $5.25 million cap hit (same as Joffrey Lupul) is a lot for a guy who's likely to be policing the third line and has only scored more than 20 goals once in his career.

 Finally we move to Jonathan Bernier, the goaltender who was brought in to rescue the Leafs Ben Scrivens but a cheap veteran would have done just fine. Instead they went out and acquired a young goaltender, virtually telling James Reimer he's not good enough and in the process screwed themselves with the cap. Without acquiring Bernier the Leafs would have $6,758,433 in cap space, which would have been enough to sign both Kadri and Franson. Instead they have just $4,895,833 left in cap space, not enough to sign both RFA's.

Also don't forget that Phil Kessel will need a new contract after this season, things are about to get real hot for Dave Nonis. The Leafs spent big money to rescue the goaltending which really didn't need rescuing. The Leafs had absolutely no reason to go out and acquire another number one goaltender, yes they needed an upgrade over Ben Scrivens but a cheap veteran would have done just fine.

In a perfect world the Leafs would want to sign both Franson and Kadri, but unless they buyout a contract or one of them caves to accept a horrible contract they won't be able to retain both.

Kadri is looking for deal around 6 years worth roughly $5.5 million a year, while the Leafs are looking at a bridge contract similiar to P.K Subban; roughly 2 years for $2.8 million. Kadri would be wise to accept the bridge contract in order to build up his resume and then demand more money in two years and if he has another year like last season he won't have to worry. But you can't exactly blame Kadri for his asking price. He sees the Leafs hand Bozak, nothing more than a glorified third line centre, $4.2 a year and since Kadri believes he's a better talent than Bozak he believes he's worth more. Truth be told neither player right now is worth anywhere near $4 million a year, but because Nonis has handed out some poor contracts others want the money.

The troublesome thing for the Leafs is they don't seem to even be in the same ballpark when negotiating with Kadri. Franson on the other hand is looking for a 4 year deal at $4 million a year, while the Leafs are looking for a 2 year deal worth $3 million a year. At least the Leafs are a little closer in terms with Franson, but it's looking like both players will want to play hardball.

Both Kadri and Franson played a pivot part in the Leafs return to the playoffs last season. Kadri burst onto the scene and has his best year putting up 18 goals and 26 assists, while Franson was a solid and
reliable defenceman all year long scoring 5 goals and adding 24 assists.

While the Leafs are stuck between a rock and a hard place right now, this was a completely avoidable problem. Nonis threw money around like there was no tomorrow during the offseason and now he's realizing that the money supply is running out and players won't play for nothing. Both Kadri and Franson deserve a respectable salary around $3 million, but the Leafs don't have the room.

With training camp looming closer and closer don't expect both to be there. The Kadri situation smells of what happened with Subban and a holdout may be imminent for Kadri. The Leafs, thanks to Nonis' loose wallet, don't have enough money to make both Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson happy which means a trade will be on the horizon.

Too bad Nonis didn't spend all that money this offseason on a viable upgrade all around. Locking up Kadri and Franson should have been first priority (after Bozak) for Nonis. If the Leafs do end up losing Kadri, they have no one but Nonis to blame for mismanaging the cap.

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