The Toronto Maple Leafs post-arbitration, 48-hour buyout window passed quietly over the weekend with no action by GM Dave Nonis.
It was assumed Nonis would buy out the remainder of John-Michael Liles’ contract. That would've freed up more than $3 million in real salary for the coming season, allowing Nonis to re-sign restricted free agents Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri and remain under the $64.3 million salary cap.
The Leafs have around $4.89 million in cap space, which likely isn't enough room to re-sign Franson and Kadri and remain cap compliant.
Nonis could try to trade the 32-year-old Liles, but with three years left on a contract with an average annual cap hit of $3.875 million (plus a limited no-trade clause), that's easier said than done.
Nonis could also trade one of his unsigned free agents. There was speculation late last month Franson would be shopped if he proved to be too expensive to re-sign.
Given Franson's improvement last season under coach Randy Carlyle (leading all Leafs blueliners in points), Nonis appears reluctant to move the 26-year-old.
Another option is demoting a player earning less than 925,000 this coming season.
Under “the Wade Redden rule,” demoted players earning the league minimum ($550,000 for 2013-14) plus $375,000 won't count against the salary cap.
Nonis could demote someone such as Colton Orr (who'll make $925,000 this season), though that wouldn’t leave much cap space for other moves or call-ups later in the season.
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons suggested the Leafs could start training camp above the salary cap and figure out what to do after that.
WOULD PIETRANGELO HOLD OUT OF TRAINING CAMP, OR WORSE?
Jeremy Rutherford of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported little progress in contract negotiations between the Blues and Alex Pietrangelo.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong claimed he wasn’t concerned about the situation and noted plenty of time remained to get Pietrangelo re-signed before training camp in September.
It's believed Pietrangelo is seeking around $7-million per season, while the club “appears unwilling to eclipse $6 million.”
Rutherford pointed out that Pietrangelo is represented by Newport Sports Management, whose clients include Montreal's P.K. Subban and Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly, two players who missed a portion of last season due to contract holdouts.
Another client, Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, staged a training camp holdout in September 2011 before inking an eight-year, $56-million deal.
If Pietrangelo's contract talks drag into September, he could follow the same path as Doughty, Subban and O'Reilly.
CLIFFORD CONTRACT COULD PUSH KINGS TO TRADE OR DEMOTE PLAYERS
The Los Angeles Kings re-signed Kyle Clifford to a two-year deal worth $2.15 million.
Clifford, 22, was the subject of trade speculation last month amid concerns his new contract would push the Kings over the salary cap.
His new contract indeed puts the Kings above the cap by $86,000, which could result in a salary-dumping deal before the start of the season.
The Kings could also use the “Wade Redden rule” by demoting a lower-salaried player to the minors. They currently have seven players – Colin Fraser, Dan Carcillo, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Matt Frattin, Keaton Ellerby and Jeff Schultz – slated to earn less than $925,000 this season.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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