Pre-UFA Opens

Pre-UFA Opens

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If UFA Day is like Christmas, this July we might get the chance to unwrap a few gifts early. At least, hopefully they’re gifts and not 4.5 million pieces of coal for the next 8 years.

The pre-FA negotiation period affords the Leafs the chance to feel out the temperature on certain UFA targets and then, if need be, clear space via the buyout period, which closes tomorrow (July 4) at midnight, or via trade.

The Leafs opened up some cap space yesterday by officially but unsurprisingly buying out Mike Komisarek to save 3.575 million in room (4.5 million – 925k) for the upcoming season. Komisarek’s buried contract was for just one more season at a cap hit of 3.575 million, but the Leafs will need that space if they’re to fill out the roster, be in the bidding for a guy like Clarkson, and then get their glut of RFAs (among them Kadri, Franson, Bernier, Gunnarsson) signed a little later on in the summer.

Dave Nonis has said it is unlikely both compliance buyouts will be used, but he wouldn’t rule it out completely; it likely depends on what they can accomplish in the pre-UFA period over the next few days. Presumably the other candidate for a buyout is John-Michael Liles and his $3,875,000 hit. If he can’t be moved to say, Colorado or NYI (who lost Mark Streit off the back end, bought out DiPietro and are $13 million shy of the cap floor), I wouldn’t have a problem with the decision to buy him out; taking stock of some of the signings across the league, it’s clear a number of GMs are banking on the cap shooting right back up after next season. It may not come to that, though, as the word leaving the Draft was that Nonis is fairly confident he will strike a deal to clear some more space, which is the more ideal scenario as it saves a compliance buyout option for next offseason.

[table “143” not found /]

Italics = My Projection
Includes only 10 forwards and 6 defencemen.

It’s easy to see why Nonis is taking his time with the RFAs (as well as many GMs across the league). It’s a squeeze. Nonis mentioned how it’s been a grind negotiating with players whose agents are still using precedents from a higher cap environment in previous seasons. Across the league many teams are taking their time and pinching their restricted FAs to save on space. I think we may see some of the Leafs‘ RFAs sign a bit cheaper than I initially thought.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]