Despite suffering a concussion in December, the impact that John-Michael Liles has had on the Toronto Maple Leafs is arguably fairly significant and the team's management has recognized that by giving the defender a new contract extension. On Wednesday, the Leafs announced that they had signed Liles to a new 4-year deal, reportedly worth $15.5 million, which works out to be a $3.875 million cap hit for each of the four seasons.
The 31-year old defenseman was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, but with this deal, he has now been taken off the potential market, shrinking the free agent frenzy by one key player.
Liles was acquired from the Avalanche around the Entry Draft in June and the move has paid off in a sense. In 34 games played this season, Liles has 4 goals and 17 assists (for 21 points), which is a good scoring rate for a defenseman and he has also provided some stability on the Leafs blueline, when he has been healthy. Unfortunately, he has been out since the end of December with a concussion and there hasn't been many updates about when he will be able to return to action.
The Leafs are a big-spending team and they have no problem hiding that fact. With Liles now signed on, they currently have 18 regular players (11 forwards, six defensemen and a goalie) signed on for the 2012 season at an annual cap projection of $52.9 million. This includes Liles' new deal and cap hit for the coming year.
Cap projections for the 2013 season are way too far away to gauge, but even if you compared their projected cap number to this year's ceiling of $64.3, the Leafs still have $11.4 million to sign on four or five roster players, which is plenty of room, given the fact they have a number of high-priced players to fill the core. This should give them plenty of room for the depth they will wish for next year.