Maple Leafs acquire Riley Nash, Increase Cap Space Ahead of NHL Trade Deadline

In acquiring injured forward Riley Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Toronto Maple Leafs extended their cap space at the deadline while adding a depth forward who can play for them in the playoffs.
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The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired injured forward Riley Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2022 NHL Draft.

The pick converts to a sixth-round pick if Nash appears in 25 percent of the Maple Leafs' playoff games in 2021.

Notice the lack of conditions for regular-season games. That's because there will not be any for the 31-year-old.

Nash suffered a sprained knee in a 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday. The forward will be out of the lineup for four-to-six weeks.

Nash has two goals and five assists in 37 games this season. He's in the final year of a three-year contract that carries an average annual value of $2.75 million.

The Leafs would normally not have the salary cap space to fit Nash on their roster, but with the expectation that the player will not return until the playoffs, Toronto acquired a player that can help them in the postseason, while adding salary cap space by playing the forward on long-term injured reserve.

Before acquiring Riley, the Leafs had approximately $1.7 million in deadline salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. With the acquisition of a contract that can be placed on long-term injured reserve (the Jackets didn't actually have him on LTIR), the Leafs had to move goaltender Frederik Andersen to the long-term injured reserve in order to have room under the cap. They then placed Nash on LTI along with Andersen. By doing this, they have taken daily salary cap accrual out of the equation. 

By moving both Nash and Andersen on LTI, the Leafs have opened up approximately $5.8 million in cap space, according to PuckPedia.com.

Andersen has been out since Mar. 19 with a lingering lower-body injury and has not skated since. If the Leafs do not use the additional space to acquire more players before the deadline, they could activate Andersen off of LTIR after he missed ten games and 24 days (Apr. 12).

If the Leafs do use the extra $5.8 million in space, they simply won't have room to activate Andersen until the playoffs. 

It's possible other long-term injuries could occur that could allow Andersen to come off LTIR, but that's impossible to anticipate.

Scenario 1: The Leafs do nothing at the deadline, the Leafs simply activate Andersen from long-term injured reserve and he's available.

Scenario 2: An injury lasting ten games/24 days occurs to a player or players totalling $5 million in cap hit or more. Said player or players are moved to LTI and Andersen can be activated.

Complicating matters is the Leafs only have one goaltender on their roster as Michael Hutchinson is off the NHL roster report, a move made to fit Nash on the roster. That will shrink the Toronto salary cap by an additional $725,000, Hutchinson's cap hit.

There is no salary cap in the postseason. Once Riley is cleared to return, Toronto can simply add him to the roster and not deal with any math. The same can happen for Andersen if they do pull off a trade and use his available cap hit.

The NHL Trade Deadline is Apr. 12 at 3 p.m. ET. 

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