The first move in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ front-office restructuring under new General Manager Kyle Dubas is a promotion: former Assistant to the General Manager, Brandon Pridham, has been named Assistant General Manager.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) May 23, 2018
Pridham, the resident CBA and cap specialist in the Leafs front office, was hired away from the league by Brendan Shanahan in August of 2014 — the Leafs President’s second major hire a month after enlisting the help of Dubas earlier that offseason.
Shanahan had not worked closely with Pridham during their time together in the league offices, but he was aware of Pridham’s work and the reputation he had earned through his integral contributions to the creation of the NHL’s salary cap system coming out of the 2004-05 lockout as well as to the league’s central registry and central scouting departments (the latter is where Pridham started his tenure with the league as an advisor back in 1999).
A natural candidate to take on more responsibility with Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter leaving the organization, Pridham had been widely speculated as in line for a promotion this offseason.
Shanahan mentioned yesterday that Dubas will want to surround himself with some more experienced staff, and while Pridham had not worked for an NHL club before the Leafs, it’s hard to argue he isn’t vastly experienced in the areas he specializes in, between his long history at the league office and now four years with the Leafs organization. While Dubas will look to bring in outside help to fill other vacant roles, it also fits Shanahan’s stated philosophy that often the best candidates to take on more responsibility — post-Lamoriello — are the qualified internal talents who know the organization inside and out.
There is little doubt that the reputation the Leafs organization carried under former GM Lou Lamoriello for taking advantage of every loophole available to them in the CBA — burying contracts, shuffling players back and forth to the AHL using various avenues to avoid waiver exposure, and taking full advantage of Long Term Injury Reserve Relief to gain cap flexibility – were in part made possible by Pridham’s work and intimate knowledge of the current CBA and cap system.
The timing of Pridham’s promotion also makes a lot of sense with where the Leafs are situated as an organization headed in the 2018 offseason. Pridham’s elevation comes ahead of a critical spring/summer in which the Leafs will negotiate with all three of their most prized young assets in Mitch Marner (an RFA in 2019, but the two sides can start talking contract on July 1, 2018), Auston Matthews (same as Marner), and William Nylander (RFA in 2018). How the Leafs manage these contracts will obviously have big implications for the organization’s cap situation moving forward and will be major factors in whether the team is able to keep its core together and add to it as management strives to create a sustained window of Cup contention.
There is going to be cap pressure with your ‘Big Three.’ We’ve seen it with other teams not being able to keep your guys. Can you tell Leafs fans right now that you can keep these three players, pay them, keep them on this team, and stay competitive?
Shanahan: We believe so and we hope so, but you never know until you get there. This is where Brandon Pridham does such a great job. He does a great job making sure we don’t get caught by surprise. We understand those challenges. It’s our coaches’ job to worry about today.
The Leafs have carried out contract talks with a number of important RFAs over the years with Pridham helping to set the framework for those negotiations — including Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri, Connor Brown, and Zach Hyman — to largely positive reviews on the final contract terms (the jury remains out on the seven-year deal for Nikita Zaitsev).
As far as UFA signings go, Pridham would have played a key role in structuring the contracts of the likes of Matt Martin and Patrick Marleau. With both players, the organization sought to mitigate the risk-laden contract lengths with front-loaded, bonus-heavy structures that should make them more movable down the road if need be. Matt Martin, for instance, will only have $2.5 million in real salary owed to him — of the $10 million total value on the four-year contract — over the final two years of his deal once his July 1 bonus is paid out this summer.
Pridham’s experience in a wide variety of departments in the league offices, including central scouting, suggests he’s qualified to offer a voice in other areas of the club’s operations outside of contracts and cap management, as well.