WHARNSBY: Pushing the salary cap

The multi-player trade puts the Leafs up against the salary cap, but the Leafs GM says he'll see how it all works out

Time will tell if the gamble made by Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter in dealing Dion Phaneuf for some secondary help will improve the Flames short term and push them into a playoff position in the Western Conference.

We see the rationale why Sutter made the move. Mark Giordano, 26, has improved enough that Phaneuf and his big salary could be moved.  Plus, Ian White continues to get better. 

White has nine goals compared to Phaneuf's 10. Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman should be able to provide some occasional secondary offence. Stajan also possibly could be a profitable partner for Jarome Iginla.

But are any of the players that Sutter acquired difference makers?

On the other side, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke deserves applause for his transactions in two separate trades with the Flames and Anaheim Ducks. To recap, Phaneuf and Fredrik Sjostrom arrived in Toronto for Hagman, Stajan, Jamal Mayers and Ian White.

The deal with the Ducks sent Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake in exchange for goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

The Leafs, in last place in the Eastern Conference, will struggle to score goals without Stajan and Hagman and we're sure the Boston Bruins don't mind because they have the Leafs first-round pick from the Phil Kessel trade.

Not only did Toronto obtain the best player in the trade, Burke shed some unproductive salary cap-eating players like Blake and was able to package pending unrestricted free agents like Toskala and Mayers for something in return.

Phaneuf immediately upgrades the Leafs blue line and Giguere will provide more stable goaltending than Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson.

Although, these moves continued to put the Leafs right up against the salary cap ("It's manageable, but it's like a new pair of underwear, uncomfortably tight," was Burke's response) this season, subtracting Blake's $4-million US salary from the books is a big relief. 

He had two more seasons at the same price tag after this year. He was signed on the basis of a productive 40-goal season with the New York Islanders in 2006-07, but Blake had scored only 50 times in 216 games in a Toronto sweater.

The 35-year-old Hagman also had two more years at $3-million per season and White was due for a hefty raise because he's set to become a restricted free agent this summer.

The Leafs added $13.25-million in Phaneuf, Giguere and Sjostrom and sent away $14.93-million in combined salary in Toskala, Blake, Hagman, Stajan, Mayers and White.

Below, you will find how the new payrolls for the Flames and Maple Leafs break down after Sunday's seven-player swap and Toronto's additional move with the Anaheim Ducks.

You will notice the Leafs exceed the NHL's $56.8-million US salary cap by a wide margin, but that's because not all bonus money in the contracts for Luke Schenn or Tyler Bozak will count against the cap.

Also, Toronto won't take as much of a cap hit for defenceman Mike Komisarek, who has missed significant playing time because of a shoulder injury, in addition to players on the long-term injury list such as forward Mikhail Grabovski and defenceman Mike Van Ryn.

 Calgary Flames  Toronto Maple Leafs 
 Player Salary Player Salary
 Jarome Iginla $7,000,000 Dion Phaneuf $6,500,000
 Jay Bouwmeester $6,680,000 J.S. Giguere $6,000,000
 Miikka Kiprusoff $5,833,333 Phil Kessel $5,400,000
 Olli Jokinen $5,250,000 Mike Komisarek $4,500,000
 Daymond Langkow $4,500,000 Tomas Kaberle $4,250,000
 Robyn Regehr $4,020,000 Francois Beauchemin $3,800,000
 Cory Sarich $3,600,000 Tyler Bozak $3,700,000
 Niklas Hagman $3,000,000 Jeff Finger $3,500,000
 Matt Stajan $1,750,000 Luke Schenn $2,975,000
 Rene Bourque $1,350,000 Mike Van Ryn $2,900,000
 Jamal Mayers $1,333,333 Mikhail Grabovski $2,900,000
 Mikael Backlund $1,300,000 Lee Stempniak $2,500,000
 David Moss $1,300,000 Jonas Gustavsson $2,300,000
 Curtis Glencross $1,200,000 Alexei Ponikarovsky $2,105,000
 Craig Conroy $1,050,000 Nikolai Kulemin $1,487,500
 Mark Giordano $891,667 Wayne Primeau $1,400,000
 Nigel Dawes $850,000 Garnet Exelby $1,391,700
 Ian White $850,000 Colton Orr $1,000,000
 Adam Pardy $700,000 Carl Gunnarson $800,000
 Eric Nystrom $687,500 Rickard Wallin $800,000
 Dustin Boyd $650,000 Fredrik Sjostrom $750,000
 Jamie Lundmark $600,000 Viktor Stalberg $750,000
 Brian McGrattan $547,000 Jay Rosehill $512,500
 Aaron Johnson $540,000 John Mitchell $487,500
 Curtis McElhinney $535,000 Darcy Tucker (buyout) $1,000,000
   Andrew Raycroft (buyout) $733,333
 TOTAL PAYROLL: $56,017,833  TOTAL PAYROLL: $64,442,533