Toronto Maple Leafs Handcuffed By John Tavares’ Contract

by | Jun 7, 2019 | Soapbox | 37 comments


  1. In theory you are correct – the Tavares contract created the cap issues that the Leafs are facing. But that doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision. It just means that they may now need to trade some of the forwards (that are way less important than Tavares) for help on defence. Perhaps they trade Kapanen, Kadri, Johnsson, or Nylander for defence.

    I for one would rather have Tavares than any of the other forwards. And if we are willing to trade offence for defence this offseason than we have set ourselves up for strong play down the middle, and can still deal with improving a weak defence, while waiting for some of the young defence prospects to improve.

  2. I think one mistake Dubas made was giving Nylander that contract. Should have traded him while he had value or let him sit for the year.

    Marleau ‘s gone but at what cost, I don’t know. One of Kappy or Johnsson is likely traded and Kadri, I don’t what they do there. Zaitsev just wants out period.

    Ya, the Tavares contract didn’t help for sure, but he gave them their money’s worth; at least this year, he did.

  3. Lyle, the Leafs cap issues are no secret but indicating the JT signing as a bad move is an opinion I simply don’t agree with.
    Sound like a broken record here but even if that signing costs us Marner, I’m ok with it. Tavares plus return on Marner in a trade > Marner.

    Are there issues, sure. We need Marleau and Zaitsev gone, we need more defense, we need a back up goalie – none of those issue would have been solved whether we had Tavares or Marner up front.

    Lets flip the switch on the thought pattern for a second, with signing Tavares, the Leafs now have the luxury of being able to offer decent to elite forwards, AJ, KK, WN and Marner for a desired return preferably in the form of picks and prospects.

    • I have no issue with Tavares. The problem is his contract will hamper their efforts to improve their defense, which is their Achilles heel. Without his contract on the books, they at least would’ve had a better shot of addressing that need. Those trade suggestions you make provides no immediate help to the defense and weakens their forward lines.

      • I don’t believe that the Tavares contract will hamper their effort to improve the defence. Instead I would argue that he gives them the depth up front to trade forwards from a position of strength to get defence a position of weakness. It is only a problem if they don’t make the trades to rebalance the roster.

      • Ya but chris they have to trade out salary! They can’t get defence in a trade because they won’t be able to take salary back,

      • Exactly. This might work if Marleau and Zaitsev can be traded without retaining any salary or taking any back. Even then, the bulk of those savings get eaten up in Marner’s raise. Unless, of course, Dubas decides to trade Marner for a top-two defenseman. But then, where do they get the money for Kapanen, Johnsson, and another blueliner or two if Hainsey and Gardiner are gone?

      • You’re bang on Lyle, like I said below they can’t trade for defence without trading a number of forwards to move out cap

      • If the leafs trade Marleau and Marner in a trade for D they end up Oilers 2.0 – trade Hall and Eberle and find themselves light on the wing. Realistically, the Leafs need to realize signing Marner, Tavares, Matthews, and Nylander to big money means the window closes for a couple years and they need to load up on prospects that can give help on ELCs while also waiting for the cap to continue to rise. They are likely losing two top 4 d – Zaitsev and Gardiner, but they do have Sandin and Liljegren coming. Kadri for a real good pick or prospect on ELC makes a lot of sense.

      • Lyle I completely disagree. Tavares signing basically replaces the offense of JVR and Bozak as well as what the cap space their new contracts would be and basing on what they got $12M combined, it would be foolish not to take that into account before one judges…looking back at Nylander, say he should of been paid around $6.5M/year mark but getting him for $300-400k more isn’t as bad in hindsight considering I’d rather give Nylander his $6.9M per for the 6yrs than Nelson for $6Mx6yrs. It’s soooo much better to error on the best players than be on the hook for an over paid fading asset.

        However you look at it, Lou dealt the Leafs the two contracts responsible for the current crunch. Those two contracts are Marleau and Zaitsev btw.

      • That only compounds the problem. They signed Tavares knowing they were facing a potential cap crunch this summer with Marleau and Zaitsev on the books.

  4. I said it when it happened Tavares signing was a mistake, not because Tavares isn’t a good player just because the leafs needed defense and now they will even have trouble trading for defense without moving a number a forwards to make cap room! Tavares,nylander,Matthews and soon to be marner will be making 40 million!

    • I don’t think that the Leafs will have all those forwards in the line up at the beginning of the season. Just because they cannot afford all of them. One of Marner, Matthews, Tavares or Nylander will be traded. Imo it should be Nylander. And they’ll have to trade at least one other forward (Kapanen, Johnsson, Marleau).
      Add Zaitsev to the list and Dubas has a lot of work in the comung weeks.

      • Very true, but nylanders value is at its lowest right now after the holdout and a terrible 50+ games and playoffs!

      • At least Nylander played good at the World Cup in Slovakia. So his trade value may be at it’s lowest right now, but that doesn’t mean he is untradeable respectivley the return will be bad.
        I am also very corious what Dubas get’s and has to add if he trades Marleau and Zaitsev.

  5. If the motive for the Leafs is to trade Kadri for the cap relief it brings, then clearly what they’ want back is something (or some things) from the other team’s picks/prospects.

    As I’ve been saying all along, I’d take him in Ottawa in a New York minute. Just $4.5 mil for the next 3 years for a C who had back-to-back 30 goal seasons and who still scored 16 in 73 gp this past season while demoted to 3rd line minutes? That’s a bargain by any standards.

    But would Dubas deal with Ottawa?

  6. It’s a fair appraisal of the Leafs’ situation, Lyle, and the way forward could get complicated and painful. As a fan, I’m hoping that a couple of spots on defence can be filled by players from the Marlies – Rosen, Liljegren, Sandin among possibilities.
    Pretty sure that either Kapanen or Johnsson will be traded and that spot might be filled by a current Marlie as well.
    Really hope they can keep Kadri even though he needs a kick in the ass on a daily basis.
    Interesting times for sure.

  7. The leafs blew it. This should have been their year…but once again they are one and done.

    Also, trading their first rounder, when you know your in cap trouble wasn’t the brightest of moves.

    They should hope marner gets offer sheeted, the 4 first rounders they will get can be cheap plugs or trade bait.

    With the extra picks from marner they should use part of to package to get rid of the mess they have on cap friendly.

    My lander could be traded for a defenceman, but at that salary he won’t have a lot of “positive value” less you throw in a pick.

    So much for the Shan a plan lol

  8. Welcome To The rebuild! Part 2.

    • I think the Leafs will be able to move both Marleau and Zaitsev, which will go a long way to allowing them to make other trades for defence. If you are not a cap team, then Marleau’s cap hit becomes irrelevant, and after July 1 he is a $1.25M fourth liner on the west coast. That is a good value contract, especially when combined with his strong leadership. Zaitsev may cost them some salary retention, but even if they keep a $1M they will have cleared $10M and will still use LTIR for Horton. At that point they can sign Marner, Kapanen and Johnsson, and trade a forward for defence – perhaps Kapanen for Pesche. They would still have money to sign a veteran D to bridge them to Sandin and the other prospects. I think Dubas will steer his way through this cap issue successfully.

      • You’re not getting pesce for kapanen! And still I don’t think you understand that moving Marleau is going to cost you something else to take that contract NO gm is taking that contract for nothing it just isn’t happening

  9. If you are not a cap team, why wouldn’t you want a 15 goal scoring veteran 4th liner with Marleau’s leadership experience for $1.25M. Because that is all he will cost you in terms of cash.

    • Because there are better options for those teams.
      As much as it pains me to say it, but BBB is pretty accurate in his awkward assessment of the Leafs.
      You need guys on ELC’s.
      You need center depth
      You need Defense.
      No rival GM is going to help Dubas unless he is helping himself first.

    • Because you could play a young guy for less? Why would take a 6.25 million dollar cap hit as a 4th liner and help a team out that is in cap hell? Chicago lost teurivnan to Carolina because the canes took salary to help Chicago

      • BBB – You keep missing the point. Many teams do not spend to the cap. In that case, the only relevant number associated with Marleau is $1.25M (which is the amount of real dollars it will cost you). I don’t believe that any team will make a trade to do the Leafs a favour. I think Marleau costs a few hundred thousand dollars more than an ELC salary, and delivers leadership to developing teams while scoring 10 to 15 goals on the 4th line. If you think about $1.25M that is a good value.

      • You don’t get it chris nobody is taking Marleau for free for leadership it just isn’t happening! Why would you help a team for free for a fourth liner? Every gm knows the leafs HAVE to move salary NO gm is taking Marleau without getting something else from the leafs whether it’s pick or prospects or a young roster player NOBODY is helping the leafs out for free it’s the cap world look at the history

      • Comparing Bickell and Marleau is like comparing apples and oranges. At the time Bickell was traded he wasn’t a useful player anymore as Marleau still is. Bickell was always injured and the Blackhawks had to sweeten the deal (Teravainen) to get rid of Bickell and his salary.
        I don’t know how much or if the Leafs have to add to get rid of Marleau, but it definitely won’t be a prospect as good as Teravainen was at that time.
        If your team can (easily) absorb his cap hit, why wouldn’t you as a GM trade a 7th round pick or future considerations for Marleau? Get a useful player for next to nothing who you can trade at deadline if you’re not contending for the playoffs.

      • It’s not happening as much as leaf fans think Marleau has a lots left and he might no team is going to take Marleau for nothing to help the leafs, the leafs have to move him

  10. I respectfully disagree with you on this one Kyle. First of all if you have the opportunity to add an elite 1st line calibre center like Tavares for nothing but cap space you do it every time. Then it’s all fine a well to say your cap space is better spent on defence but there has to be a defenceman worth spending the money on no? So I ask you which UFA defenseman was even worth signing last yr over Tavares or worth signing at all for that matter. Marleau and Zaitsev are perfect examples of how not to invest you cap space. Tavares for $11M or Marleau and Zaitsev for $10.75M?

    I for one am very happy with the decisions Dubas has made so far as GM. Including Nylander, which will prove to be a steal of a contract in short order. So unless you want to overpay out of desperation ((Taylor Hall anyone?) you need to wait for the right trade opportunity to upgrade (like Muzzin). And until that right opportunity arises you draft, develop and add external source players (KHL etc) to fill the holes as best you can. Dubas has done all of that and I’m excited to see how he shapes the roster this offseason.

  11. The chicken or the egg. Does Tavares score without Marner. Does Marner get the points without Tavares
    I’ll take the true goal scorer every day. You can’t teach that.

    • Good point! I don’t think Tavares gets near the goals without marner

  12. The Bruins will once again defeat the Maple Leafs in next year’s playoffs.

  13. The thought to trade Marner is silly at best. Trade Tavares while you can!! He has had 10 years to get past the first round and done it exactly once yet he has 11 million a year for 6 more years. Every excuse as to why Tavares hasn’t won anything has already been used. With the Islanders it was bad coaching, bad gm, bad linemates, bad fans and a bad building. Now its Austen Mathews, Mitch Marner, no defense, a young gm, Lamoriello’s deal with Zaitsev, Nylanders contract and in some eyes bad coaching. Why does Tavares never get any of the blame? The man is Teflon. He has great skill but where was he in the big spot? Two meaningless goals in seven games against the Bruins yet Marner is the one who disappeared? The guy is starting on the downside of his career and Lyle is correct because that contract will kill the Leafs in future years. Trading Tavares to a team in need of a number one center is the answer. You could bring back quite a haul and set the Leafs up for a decade. Otherwise, Be careful what you wish for Leaf fans.

    • Great post! Leaf fans always say when guys reach 30 on other teams they start to go down hill yet Tavares will be there soon making 11 million dollars and it’s all good lol

    • I recall hearing a lot of players lay the blame for lack of success on the arena and fans.

      “Well, we just couldn’t get it done, it was the damn building! And don’t get me started on these terrible fans “

      “If we had a better building, who knows? maybe we’re in the scf’s instead of a first round sweep or not making the playoffs…. yeah yeah… it’s the building I tell ya!”

      • Lol. NYR4life I think you missed my point. Who ever said its the players making these excuses? It’s the Monday Morning QBs like you and I who make the excuses. It’s the homer media in many cities who make the excuses. Sometimes it’s the odd coach or manager who makes the excuses. The players are pros who go out and do their jobs and get paid. Some are good and some are great but they just play. It’s up to us and the media to form the opinions and make the excuses for them. John Tavares is an extremely skilled hockey player and I’m sure a really good guy. But we form our opinions about teams,players and rosters and we all disagree regularly. I have formed the opinion that as good as he is, he is not the clutch performer he is made out to be and he is overpaid and his contract will hurt the Leafs.

  14. The biggest problem is one that most people don’t catch. Marner, Matthews, Gardiner and Nylander all need new contracts one year before Marleau’s big deal expires.
    Lou screwed up giving Marleau that third year at $6.2 M, and should have offered a little more to get a 2 year deal with Marleau. That is what has really tied a lot of hands, as well as Nylander’s hold-out. I attribute much of the cap problems to a change in vision between Lou and Dubas. Dubas may be a little too invested in rewarding guys like Nylander a little too well before they earn the big contract. The criss-cross seems to have the Leafs developing replacements for the older, better paid guys a full year before thay can reliably insert them in first line roles. At least that is the case on the blueline and with Marleau.