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Buyout options on the table for the Maple Leafs

TJ Brodie Toronto Maple Leafs TJ Brodie - Getty Images

It seems another buyout may be on the way in Toronto.

After an arbitrator awarded goaltender Ilya Samsonov a one-year, $3.5 million contract for the 2023-24 season, Toronto’s cap situation has become much more clear. In short, the Maple Leafs are well over the hard salary cap, and barring a trade to free up some sorely needed cap space, a buyout of one or more players on the active roster is coming. That’s irrespective of defenceman Jake Muzzin’s contract ($5.625 million) and the relief they will get from the long-term injured reserve program.

What I think is curious about this summer, the first for new general manager Brad Treliving in Toronto, is he spent aggressively knowing he would have to claw back money later. Prior to Samsonov’s extension, the team allocated nearly $17 million in cap space this season to forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, David Kampf and Ryan Reaves as well as defenceman John Klingberg. 

In fairness to Treliving, he’s operating under a dual mandate – trying to improve the current lineup in the team’s Stanley Cup bid, while also trying to alleviate some of the organization’s salary cap stress. To that end, a short-term deal to an impact forward like Bertuzzi makes sense. Perhaps less so, multi-year deals for Kampf and Reaves.

At any rate, the team has to peel back some money now, and the good news is they do have options. And focus will immediately shift to two names: goaltender Matt Murray and defenceman T.J. Brodie.

Kyle Dubas’ buy-low bet on Murray was a miss, in large part because of the goaltender’s continued inability to stay healthy. It’s that durability concern that’s cooled potential trade partners as well. 

The team has three paths with Murray: finding a trade partner (which has been difficult so far, and would likely require salary retention), a buyout of his current contract, or if his health remains an issue, placement on LTIR. A buyout would look like this, courtesy our friends at CapFriendly:

Simply put: The team saves about $4.2 million for the 2023-24 season, at the cost of a $2.6 million charge for the 2024-25 season. 

If Toronto does not buy out Murray, Toronto can also leverage LTIR, effectively erasing the entirety of his $6.2 million dollar contract from the salary cap. Of course, two obvious components come into play here: (a) the player has to be medically eligible for the program; and (b) placing Murray on LTIR, coupled with Muzzin’s contract, would effectively exhaust what Toronto can do with LTIR going forward. 

Brodie is a much more interesting buyout candidate, in large part because he’s still a quality NHL defenceman. Toronto, for what it’s worth, has been 39 goals better than their opponents over his three-year tenure at even strength – a number only trumped by Morgan Rielly (+60). 

But Brodie is also 33-years-old with over 900 games played at the NHL level, an awful lot of mileage – and that’s before getting into the realities of his expiring contract and, owing to some big potential extensions on the horizon, the small likelihood of him playing in Toronto beyond this year.

Here, buying out Brodie’s contract frees up even more space than Murray, spending $5 million dollars to save $2.5 million in the process. Toronto’s cap hit would reduce by $5 million in the 2023-24 season, but add that $2.5 million charge to the books in the 2024-25 season. And yes, Toronto could opt to buy out both Murray and Brodie, which would free up north of $9 million dollars for the 2023-24 season. 

Looking at Toronto’s contract situation, I think it’s rather clear Murray needs resolution as soon as possible – be it through buyout or through the LTIR program. The team’s already committed to Samsonov for at least this season, and Murray has no serious playing future with the organization. You hope he can finally get healthy and land on his feet at some point, but it just hasn’t materialized that way.

Where I think the Maple Leafs stepped into a minefield is the moment a Brodie buyout became a semi-serious point of debate. The Maple Leafs would take a decisive step backwards without Brodie on their blue-line next season, but are forced to at least entertain the idea because of some of the other contracts they signed this summer, soaking up critical cap space. Toronto reasonably hedged on these contracts by signing so many short-term deals, knowing they’ll need every dollar of space available to them to take care of stars like Auston Matthews and William Nylander. 

And even though Brodie may not be factoring into this team’s long-term future, Treliving and company still promised to deliver a contender this year. Is that easier with, or without a Brodie buyout?  I sharply lean to the latter, but answers may vary! 

Data via Natural Stat Trick,, CapFriendly