Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis has been a busy bee this summer. He’s built on a roster that was fifth in the Eastern Conference last season, building up to the point where he thinks his team has a legitimate shot at a Stanley Cup in 2013-14.
What the Leafs have done a whole lot of is spend money. That spending comes despite not having a whole lot of it to play around with, especially after signing David Clarkson to the absurd contract that he received. They also had a pair of restricted free agents to retain in Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.
Now that they have their key players, and the free agents that they so desired, locked up, there are a couple of things for Nonis to worry about. The first is a Phil Kessel extension. But in the much shorter term, he needs to worry about getting under the salary cap by the end of the weekend, essentially.
That’s going to be tough after the Franson deal. It didn’t look like they’d have the dough to sign him, but they agreed on a one-year pact and put themselves over the cap. Which means someone is going to go. And there’s no one more likely to go on this roster than John-Michael Liles.
Liles has reached the point with the Leafs where he is no longer a necessity. He’s carrying a cap hit up near $4 million, despite injury issues and a lack of playing time limiting his production over the last couple of years. The Leafs have young defensemen coming up through the ranks. There’s no purpose for Liles anymore, especially at that price.
They may explore a trade for him, and there are certainly teams that may inquire. Waivers remains the more likely possibility. As the Leafs try and send him down, a team might pick him up to add to their blue line and add a defenseman capable of putting up 30 or 40 points for a price that isn’t terrible. It isn’t that Liles is useless, in any sense of the word. It’s just a matter of not being a fit in Toronto anymore, financially or as far as personnel goes.