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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 18, 2020
After 48 hours to absorb another so-near-yet-so-far ending to its season, the Maple Leafs braintrust turned thoughts to 2021.
While they now face a second four-month hiatus after losing the qualifier to the Columbus Blue Jackets, president Brendan Shanahan, general manager Kyle Dubas and coach Sheldon Keefe began the review process Wednesday morning before their final media Zoom call.
But higher-salaried Leafs are already putting the squeeze on the salary cap Dubas has to work with, which was unexpectedly flattened at $81.5 million by the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’ve got a little bit of space, contrary to everyone’s belief,” insisted Dubas, though hardly enough to add a stud defenceman. “We’ve only got restricted free agents to sign (namely Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev). You think the cap will always go up, but now that it will stay level, you try and plan to keep your options open. We have a lot of flexibility with things we can do. It will be on me to be creative.”
Defencemen Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci and forwards Kyle Clifford and Jason Spezza will be UFAs in October under the revised league calendar with a December start to the 2020-21 schedule. Hometowner Spezza is definitely anxious to stay.
“I know I’m not the player I once was, but the fire still burns,” said 37-year-old centre.
Barrie, despite not quite living up to expectations, has only been complimentary of the Leafs. After missing most of Game 5 after a hard hit put him under concussion watch, he’s uncertain where he might land next season.
“It’s such a crazy year all around the league. The landscape of free agency has changed a bit (the flat cap unlikely to mean a huge pay day). We’ll see.
“There was frustration that we didn’t get it done here and I wasn’t able to help more. I wish I left a little more of a stamp on the (Columbus) series.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020