Rumor: Leafs to use salary cap rise to sign top pairing defenseman

Would be a huge add to the blue line.

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The salary cap is projected to rise to somewhere between $78 and $82 million this summer, depending on the NHLPA.

It currently sits at $75 million, which, if it didn't rise could have posed a problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they have several contracts to deal with this year and the next.

This year they have to re-sign William Nylander and make a decision on James van RiemsdykLeo Komarov, Tyler Bozak, Dominic Moore, and Roman Polak are set to hit unrestricted free agency as well.

On top of that, you have Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner entering the final year of their entry level deals in 2018-19. Contract extensions can be discussed as early as July 1st and they will be in for significant raises. Matthews' deal is expected to be north of $10 million, possibly even upwards of the $12 million mark.

With the salary cap increasing next season, and likely the year after, they've been afforded some flexibility. They'll have $28-32 million in space with 16 players already under contract, giving them the manoeuvrability to sign a top player, and possibly still keep JvR.

That top player could be John CarlsonThe Hockey Writers' Ben Shelley believes that this possibility exists, as it should, considering the Leafs' well-documented search for a top-pairing D to solidify the blue line.

"The cap raise also means that Toronto could go out and sign a player instead of re-signing van Riemsdyk," Shelley writes. "One target could be John Carlson, who would be a great right-handed shot defenceman who could play a top-pair role for the Leafs."

Carlson is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and with the Washington Capitals seemingly cursed to not make it past the second round, the defenseman may decide a change of scenery is necessary. With Toronto turning into a contender, he may be the piece they need, and they could very well have the financial wherewithal to afford him.