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Tag, you’re it: Jake Muzzin might be the next Maple Leafs player to get an extension

Jake Muzzin wants to sign with the Leafs, and the Leafs want to sign the defenceman to an extension. That much we’ve known for some time, but on Thursday on Insider Trading, Daren Dreger reported that the deal might be almost done, but “tagging room” considerations could hold things up until March 1.

Tagging room is the CBA rule that prevents NHL teams from signing players mid-season to multi-year SPCs that they don’t actually have the payroll room in the present or the future to absorb. That future payroll room is calculated in a way that penalizes teams running with a current-year total AAV of all cap hits over the upper limit via LTIR. Now who does that sound like?

Right now, the Maple Leafs have a total AAV spent on their 23 healthy players and their host of LTIR and IR cases of over $95 million. It will change by $700,000 tomorrow at noon when Michael Hutchinson is either claimed or assigned to the minors, and it will reduce as players on LTIR become healthy and others have to come off the roster to make space.

Assuming that ever actually happens, of course. But, the current situation has the Leafs at more than $15 million over the cap.

As of right now, their commitments next year are at just over $71 million. And with the cap used in this calculation still at this year’s $81.5 million, that’s clearly enough space to add an extension for next year, but the tagging room is affected by this year’s current space and it has to be enough to hold the AAV of the extension they sign.

I’ll be honest, I don’t understand exactly how these numbers work or what the threshold is for a Muzzin deal when a team is deep in LTIR space like the Leafs are. They clearly were able to sign Pierre Engvall to his modest extension, and Justin Holl before him, but presumably, Jake Muzzin will be getting a raise, and his new AAV will overflow this year’s cap space (LTIR pool) and will require that tagging room.

This is one of those times where I know deep in my heart that Brandon Pridham has got this one, and I don’t need the messy details.

Tagging room goes up by 10% on March 1, and this same problem affected the Ducks last year with Jakob Silfverberg. This TSN article covers the concept at the 10,000 ft level:

What’s interesting to us about the Silfverberg situation is that he signed his extension last year on March 1. It seems like we might be expected Muzzin’s on the same day. Of course, the Leafs also don’t know who they’ll have on the roster come February 24, and can’t exactly predict the space in this year or next, so it seems sensible for us all to just assume this is nearly done as Dreger says, but will hold off until March 1 as they iron out exactly the term and AAV that works for them and will make us all cry.

Mark your calendars.