The Toronto Maple Leafs recent demotion of veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles leaves his future with the franchise in doubt.
Liles, who turns 33 next month, has two more seasons remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $3.875 million.
Under the new NHL CBA, the Leafs only receive $925,000 in cap relief for burying Liles in the minors this season, with the bulk of his salary ($2.95 million) still counting against their cap.
The Leafs reportedly shopped Liles during the pre-season but – thanks to his contract – couldn’t find any takers.
If they’re unable to move Liles during the season, Globe and Mail columnist James Mirtle believes he could receive a buyout next summer.
The Leafs already used their two compliance buyouts on Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski. Going the normal buyout route for Liles would see the Leafs take a cap hit of $791,000 next season, jumping to more than $2.29 million for 2015-16, then dropping to $1.16 million per season over the remaining two years.
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman suggested the Leafs absorb part of Liles’ remaining salary to facilitate a trade, but cautioned NHL clubs can do this with only three players per season.
They’re already absorbing part of the salaries of Ben Scrivens and Matt Frattin, whom they shipped to the LA Kings this summer for goalie Jonathan Bernier. They can retain up to 50 percent of Liles’ salary/cap hit.
The Leafs also have $2 million in dead cap space tied up in previous buyouts for Colby Armstrong and the long-departed Darcy Tucker, which come off the books at the end of this season.
A free-spending club like the Leafs can afford to absorb part of Liles’ salary, especially with the salary cap expected to resume its annual increases after this season. Still, it remains to be seen if such a move would improve Liles’ trade value.
WITH VOKOUN DOWN, PENGUINS NET QUESTIONS RESUME
The Pittsburgh Penguins received bad news on Wednesday, as goaltender Tomas Vokoun will be sidelined between three to six months recuperating from surgery to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis.
That’s ramped up worries among Penguins followers who are already concerned over shaky starter Marc-Andre Fleury and inexperienced third-string backup Jeff Zatkoff.
Rumors were already flying over a possible replacement for Vokoun immediately following his surgery, linking the Penguins to free agents Ilya Bryzgalov and Jose Theodore.
Penguins GM Ray Shero, however, claims he has no immediate plans to look for help outside the organization.
“I want to go with the goaltending we have here and see how we do”, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Considering the NHL season has only just started, Shero has the luxury of patience. Over the next couple of months, he’ll give Fleury – who backstopped the Penguins to a 3-0 season-opening win over New Jersey – as much time as possible to regain his confidence.
ILYA BRYZGALOV DOES LAS VEGAS
Speaking of Bryzgalov, he’s agreed to a professional tryout with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers.
While that seems like quite the downfall for a goalie who two years ago inked a nine-year, $51-million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s believed Bryzgalov is using the ECHL as a stepping stone toward returning to the NHL this season.
Despite his unhappy tenure with the Flyers, it’s not far-fetched to think an NHL team in need of goaltending depth would scout Bryzgalov for a few games before offering him a contract.