Can a stronger post-pandemic NHL open a wider window for the Leafs?

The thing most people don’t want to talk about when it comes to the Leafs is just how much the shifting of the league due to the pandemic absolutely wreaked havoc on their plans to contend. It doesn’t make for an interesting story to just throw up our hands and say “The flat cap is the problem”, but like, it sort of is. The nuked revenue due to the near-shutdown of the league since 2020 did damage to a lot of cap teams, but none quite like the Leafs. 
Management in Toronto thought they had a strong long term plan worked out when they signed Matthews and Marner to monster second deals on top of the Tavares money in the same calendar year of 2019. They did so banking on new television deals, more expansion money, and a forecasted salary cap number that should be in the range of 92-95 million right now. With everything that’s happened since, it sits at 82.5 million. Catastrophic for a team that wanted to get the most of a 5-6 year window before another re-up was needed. 
I guess the question now becomes, with what seems to be the most normal season to get going since the pandemic started about to start, can the league, and with it the Leafs, get back on track with their long term …

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Author: Ryan Fancey / The Leafs Nation