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Matt Murray placed on the LTIR: Leafs’ decision raises suspicions

Much like every year, the Toronto Maple Leafs are currently struggling with payroll issues. Considering that the salary cap doesn’t go up, betting on so many big earners makes it pretty hard to manage in the city, and once again this year, that’s the case.

And I’m not even taking into account the current negotiations with Auston Matthews and William Nylander.

This morning, the Leafs exceeded the salary cap by $12 million. We knew that Jake Muzzin ($5.625M) would go on the LTIR, but after that, it was still the unknown.

And while many expected Matt Murray’s contract to be bought out, given the Maple Leafs’ second contract buyout window following Ilya Samsonov’s passage through salary arbitration, the Toronto club finally announced at noon that Murray would also be placed on the LTIR.

We’re talking about an indefinite absence for the goaltender, but clearly, he’ll miss the start of next season and could even be out for the entire campaign.

And in the eyes of some, that’s where it gets tricky.

In fact, what’s particularly upsetting is that the goaltender was given the green light to return to action on May 9, when the Maple Leafs were in the playoffs. He didn’t play, but was seen as Joseph Woll’s backup following Ilya Samsonov’s playoff injury.

Obviously, the knowledge that he’s been given the green light for the playoffs makes today’s decision less palatable across the NHL, but in the end, it’s not unlike the cases of Shea Weber and Carey Price during the CH’s playoff run in the summer of 2021.

Both played the entire playoffs before being placed on the LTIR at the start of the following season. Weber never played again, while Price came back to play a handful of games before having to end his career (unofficially, not officially).

That said, in Toronto, it was a happy coincidence, considering the club’s desperate need for money. But in reality, had he been healthy, the Leafs would probably have simply bought out his contract.

Remember, you can’t buy out the contract of an injured player.

Obviously, placing him on the LTIR is more advantageous for the Maple Leafs (and Senators), who won’t have to pay a contract buyout penalty. But in the end, it’s still pretty much the same thing: Murray’s cap hit is gone, something the Leafs sorely needed.

If he miraculously returns in the next playoffs, I’ll start asking myself more serious questions, but in the short term, I don’t really believe in getting around the salary cap.

We obviously wish the 29-year-old good health, and we’ll now see how Brad Treliving finds the $2 million and change he still needs to comply with the salary cap. Stay tuned.

In gusto

– Logan Cooley could finally sign his entry-level contract by the start of next season.

– He won’t deny it, we agree.

– Status of the Red Wings prospects.

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