Relief, thatâ€™s the feeling I get when watching our young and improving defenseman Luke Schenn night in and night out this season.Â Oh admit it you were a touch worried as I was that Schenn might not ever reach this day but I think we can all just say it and say it with pride, Luke Schenn is a stud.Â Although heÂ was neverÂ really that bad for most of last seasonÂ the fact is Schenn was unfairly judged (as a 20 year old defenseman in his second season) by most Leafs fans.Â
The overall sentiment in 2009/10 seemed to be that Schenn was a disappointment and perhaps on his way to joining the long list of former Toronto Maple Leafs first round busts.Â Well something clicked in the New Year and 2010 has quickly made peopleÂ remember why Luke Schenn was so highly touted in the first place.Â Frankly he has been our best defenseman since the latter stages of last season and in 2010/11 currently leads all Maple Leafs defenseman in plus/minus (+4) and hits (42), is third in blocked shots (18) and has chipped in with three assists.
Schenn, who just recently turned 21 years old has gone from our fifth defenseman on the less frequently used third pairing to a guy coach Ron Wilson plays in all situations and might be his most trusted defenseman overall.Â Schenn averaged 16:53 minutes of ice-time in 2009/10 while early into the new season he has played a robust and career high 22:27 minutes per night.
With that said the next step for Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs will be to lock up Schenn to a longer term deal in the off-season.Â What type of contract can the bruising and skilful defenseman expect?Â I attempted to look at some of the recent deals signed by defenseman taken high in the first round and to find a good comparisonÂ for Schenn in terms of similar skill sets, numbers and overall game.
Marc Staal is probably a great place to start when trying to hone in on what exactly what it will take to get Luke Schenn signed long term.Â Schenn is two years younger than Staal and the Leafs defenseman was rushed a bit to the NHL (Staal began his career at age 21, Schennâ€™s current age) but there games are pretty similar and they both possess excellent skill sets and the potential to be excellent shutdown defenders.
Staal, 23, was a training camp holdout this past offseason and the restricted free agent signed a new 5-year deal that will pay Staal $3.975 million per season.Â Staal finished second among all Rangers defensemen with 8 goals and 27 points, and he’s raised his goals, assists and points totals in each of the last two seasons after starting with 2 goals and 10 points as a rookie in 2007-08.
He also led all Rangers players with an average ice time of 23:07 per game in 2009-10, and his plus-11 rating was third on the team and first among defensemen.Â Â The 12th pick of the 2005 Entry Draft, Staal has 13 goals, 52 points and a plus-6 rating in 244 games, as well as 2 goals and 4 points in 17 playoff games. He’s missed just two regular-season games in his NHL career, both in his rookie season, and has played in 202 consecutive games.
This seems like an appropriate comparison and the type of new contract that Luke Schenn can expect this coming offseason as he will become a restricted free agent.Â We could possibly get a slight home team discount and Schenn seems to enjoy playing in Toronto so a 4 or 5 year deal at approximately 3.7-3.9 million per season should be a fair estimate.
Expect Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs brass to make this their top priority in the summer as the Leafs donâ€™t want to be in a position where another team can offer a well above-market or ridiculous offer sheet to the promising young defenseman â€“ something we have seen involving a Brian Burke led team in the past.
What isÂ your prediction for Schenn’s next contract?
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