But use the salary cap to keep a couple of unofficially retired players around - so they can keep earning their big-ticket salaries even if they aren't playing - while also signing a high-profile player to his own huge deal, well that's just "smart accounting".
Clarkson returned to the Leafs in a trade with Vegas on Tuesday in which Toronto also gets a fourth-round pick in next year's draft.
After many years of being a two-way force with the New Jersey Devils, the winger came home to the Maple Leafs with fanfare for a $36.75-million U.S. deal.
Agostino, 27, has five years of National Hockey League experience, scoring eight goals with 22 assists for the Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils. However, since Clarkson is not able to play, the Maple Leafs can put him on the long-term injured reserve. He signed a one-year, $750,000 contract extension with the club in March, but Toronto subsequently removed him from the lineup and then the team before the 2019 playoffs, giving him space to work on his physical and mental well-being.
That should give the Leafs enough to absorb the cap hit that Marner will require, likely on a three-to-five-year deal. He appeared in 50 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, posting two goals and eight points and added eight goals and 18 points in 18 games with the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Dubas can now go back to the Marner camp with a new set of numbers and perhaps avoid a repeat of the William Nylander saga which took the restricted free agent right until December 1 to sign. And unless something insane happens with an offer sheet, the Leafs will likely have the ability to match anything offered to Marner, which makes it that much less likely an offer sheet will be coming his way.
Marner said he'd be staying away from training camp without a deal - the Leafs open in St. John's, Nfld., in mid-September - but talked optimistically of the changes they have made, bringing in defencemen Cody Ceci, Tyson Barrie and forward Alex Kerfoot. He played with the Canadiens and Devils last season.
The 26-year-old Elmhurst, Illinois spent two seasons with the Maple Leafs.
Dubas has indeed had to move a good number of shells around to make this happen, but it looks as though he and the Leafs have dodged a potentially disastrous situation going into this season.