Leaf Bits: Burke to sit back; concerns with MacArthur?

Leaf Bits: Burke to sit back; concerns with MacArthur?

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As per The National Post’s Michael Traikos, the Leafs front office will take a breather after busy days two and three of free agency:

#Leafs Brian Burke told me “we’re going to sit back and catch our breath now … I don’t like the depth chart being full going into camp.”

We know Brian Burke is big on depth and roster spot competition, but it’s also important to create opportunities at training camp for some of this club’s developing youth to fight for. In fact much of the competition for spots can come from within. There’s Matt Frattin, for who Burke has gone on record as suggesting the AHL may be an unnecessary step as he had about as an impressive final game cameo as one could have hoped for with stand out physical ability on and off the puck. Nazem Kadri – who settled in surprisingly well onto a third line winger’s role to finish the season – figures to be in competition for that spot again in September as well as Joe Colborne potentially, who finished brightly with the Marlies and didn’t look out of place in his Leafs cameo either.

The Leafs will have Tyler Bozak, Colby Armstrong, Matthew Lombardi (if able to return that soon), Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri, Mike Brown, Colton Orr, Joe Colborne and Jay Rosehill all competing for bottom six spots at camp. As we saw with the recently expunged Brett Lebda mistake, signing players creates an obligation for icetime that can sometimes bump more deserving players down the depth chart.

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Clarke MacArthur

Traikos also tweeted:

@felixpotvin MacArthur is most likely heading to arbitration and the Leafs are making it known that they will walk if the $$ is too high

#Leafs Burke on MacArthur: “He’s going to get a big payday in arbitration. We think that’s fair … if it’s too big, we’re re-evaluate it.”

This quote strikes me as a little puzzling. Burke draws a very firm line in the sand on contract year players with only-one-good year histories, but we’ve seen him take on Tim Connolly and John Michael Liles on pretty high salary figures because of the cap flexibility of their two and one year commitments respectively. When the arbiter determines the value of Clarke’s contract for the next season later this month, MacArthur’s party will have two examples of one-year players getting big time paydays to drawn on as fresh comparables.

Ville Leino has not only had only one NHL season in which he produced over 50 points, he’s had only one season where’s played more than 42 games. Leino received a 6-year, $4.5 million contract from Buffalo on Friday.

Tomas Fleichmann had a 50 point season in 2009-10, and closed out 2010-11 with 21 points in 22 games, but hasn’t exactly had a track record of consistent production on that level. Fleischmann received $4.5 million as well over the next four seasons from the Florida Panthers.

Will the Leafs‘ party be able to argue that the Florida Panthers  gave out unreasonable value in reaching the cap floor and the Sabres’ new ownership outspent fair value in order to establish itself? Certainly, Burke’s shift in tone from [paraphrasing] “we’re confident we’ll get him under contract one way or another,” to “we’ll re-evaluate if the value isn’t fair” suggests some concern on Leafs brass’ part that these precedents could hurt their cause.

Update: looks like UFA signings are not applicable to RFA arbitration cases, which is majorly helpful to the Leafs’ case here.

Count me as a guy hoping MacArthur and the Mac in the USSR is still in tact in September, even if it means biting the bullet on an overpayment for a season. If MacArthur gets more money than Burke thinks he deserves, I’d like to see MacArthur get the chance to prove he’s worthy.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]