Morning Mashup: Fraser’s back and now we wait

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As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, yesterday Mark Fraser came to terms with the Leafs just before his arbitration hearing for a sum of $1.275 million on a one-year contract.

From Fraser’s standpoint, as he was both arb-eligible and it made sense (here’s why it didn’t for Cody Franson), filing maximized his leverage as a restricted free agent by not allowing the the club to take all summer to nickel and dime him due to the looming third-party arbitration ruling. Fraser named $2 million as his price, while the Leafs were concerned the settlement would come in half-way between at around $1.4 million and were thus willing to settle at $1.275 million just before the hearing. In the end, a player and club should try to avoid the ugly arbitration process if they can and all the power to Mark Fraser, an honest player who will likely always go from short-term contract to short-term contract and has managed to more than double his last season’s salary on a one-way deal.

Now, good for Fraser and all, but did the Leafs have other options? With Fraser being arbitration eligible and having taken the route before, likely at the advice of The Honourable Mr. Justice Hugh Fraser, one option was that the Leafs could’ve seen it coming, not qualified Fraser to begin with, and banked on a Petter Granberg coming along and taking over his role on the bottom pairing for cheaper. Not only does it seem like a reach to bank on Granberg being NHL ready with no time to adjust to the North American game and rink size in the AHL, the Leafs would only be saving about $375,000 to do it given Granberg would make $900,000 in the NHL. A second option was to forget Fraser and run with Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, Liles, Gardiner, Ranger and Franson as the top 6, but this would leave the Leafs defence light on defensive D and penalty killing options. A third option was to go bargain shopping in UFA and dip into the unknown to save a few hundred thousand.

For me, though, there’s definite value in sticking with a known quantity who filled the #6D role pretty effectively,  and – laugh at this intangible if you want to – has the type of character  to his person you like to have in your favourite hockey organization. The deal on its own isn’t really an overpayment. Closest comparables in his pay range are fellow bottom pair guys like Sheldon Brookbank, Mark Fayne and Justin Braun. When Fraser filled the soft minutes third pairing role he played for the majority of the year, and not the top-4 role he flirted with at times toward the end of the season exposing him as out of his depth against faster more skilled players, he made  the Leaf net a tough place to hang out, played two minutes a game on the vastly improved Leaf penalty kill, and was strong down low and on the boards against the other team’s grinders. Last season, playing with Cody Franson gave him an outlet for keeping it simple and passing off the puck handling responsibilities on his pairing, and he’ll need, if not Franson because he’s moved up a pairing, someone who can do the same. A possible fit is beside Paul Ranger.

If the Leafs wind up moving a piece we rather not see them move to make the cap work, it’s the necessity of the Bernier deal and how the team used its compliance buyouts that will get the attention and rightfully so. We’ll have to wait and see.

With Fraser now on the books at $1.275m, here’s how the Leafs cap situation looks, dropping the likely Marlie-bound Trevor Smith and Korbinian Holzer from their capgeek page:

FORWARDS
Joffrey Lupul ($5.250m) / Tyler Bozak ($4.200m) / Phil Kessel ($5.400m)
James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Dave Bolland ($3.375m) / David Clarkson ($5.250m)
Frazer McLaren ($0.700m) / Jay McClement ($1.500m) / Nikolai Kulemin ($2.800m)
Joe Colborne ($0.600m) / Colton Orr ($0.925m)
RFA: Nazem Kadri
DEFENSEMEN
Dion Phaneuf ($6.500m) / John-Michael Liles ($3.875m)
Carl Gunnarsson ($3.150m) / Mark Fraser ($1.275m)
Jake Gardiner ($1.117m) / Paul Ranger ($1.000m)
RFA: Cody Franson
GOALTENDERS
Jonathan Bernier ($2.900m)
James Reimer ($1.800m)
OTHER
Buyout: Darcy Tucker ($1.000m)
Buyout: Colby Armstrong ($1.000m)
RETAINED SALARY TRANSACTIONS (0.778% of upper limit)
Matt Frattin ($0.437m—0.5%) Ben Scrivens ($0.062m—0.1%)
——
SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $58,366,667; BONUSES: $300,000
CAP SPACE (19-man roster): $6,233,333

  • I don’t think the Leafs are going to move Franson. My one worry is that, even if the Leafs find a way to wedge everyone in with some relatively cheap settlements on Kadri and Franson, they may not be flexible enough to accommodate a surprise training camp/preseason performance from, say, a Jerry D’Amigo or Carter Ashton earning one of them a spot on the team. Both would earn over a million in the NHL. Scott Gordon wondered aloud yesterday if the limited cap space would allow the Leafs to add another guy into the mix for a lower roster spot – “As far as adding another guy, that would come down to what happens with the players that aren’t signed, and where the salary cap is, and if we have room or not.”
  • If the Leafs feel they could move Liles at any time, they may wait to see how the competition plays out in training camp. They can be up to 10% over the salary cap until the final day of camp.
  • You would obviously prefer to retain salary and trade him, but the John-Michael Liles buyout isn’t horrible as a Plan B or C. Year 3 is ugly, but you’re saving $3 million immediately and between the Tucker and Armstrong buyouts coming off the cap and Liles being jettisoned, they would have $5 million freed up for a huge 2014 off season (Phaneuf, Kessel, Reimer, Kulemin, Gardiner and potentially Bolland all needing contracts).
  • Here’s the JML buyout calculation. The post-arbitration buyout window opens on August 2nd.
    1. 2013-14: $875,000
    2. 2014-15: $875,000
    3. 2015-16: $2,375,000
    4. 2016-17: $1,250,000
    5. 2017-18: $1,250,000
    6. 2018-19: $1,250,000

A few Wednesday morning links…

An interview with assistant coach of the Leafs Scott Gordon
ICYMI, Anthony’s interview from yesterday.

Mark Fraser is going to wear a visor next season
Good call.

Cody Franson still unsigned and unsure of what the future holds
Cody doesn’t really express doubt here so much as he says his agent is handling it.

Top 25 under 25
PPP is starting their off-season series on the young Leafs.

Dave Bolland is taking the Stanley Cup on a parade route through Mimico
How does Lieweke feel about this? On the one hand he loves planning Stanley Cup parades, on the other he hates those who coast on past accomplishments.

Spencer Abbott is returning to the Marlies
The Leafs signed their former college signing Spencer Abbott to a one-year contract yesterday after a pretty good season with the Marlies.

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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 brownscombealec@gmail.com.
  • Keon14

    Ha: “How does Lieweke feel about this? On the one hand he loves planning Stanley Cup parades, on the other he hates those who coast on past accomplishments.”
    Fucking Bolland reliving past glories.

  • Jordan29

    I hope Franson and Kadri both take similar deals like Gunner, Bozak, Clarkson and even Orr who took less salary next year then the rest of the deals to keep the cap hits down

  • Jordan29

    Lets be honest though, if the trade makes sense I would deal Franson and keep Liles instead. I dont think long term it kills us with the potentially high skill depth we ave in defence

    • 4evrblue

      Jordan29 what are we getting back though? draft picks are the only thing that makes sense if we are trading him for cap purposes and they are risky. Unless its multiple firsts I’m just not sure it would be the best course of action.

  • 4evrblue

    Love Fraser and am glad he’s back. We’re going to be a hard hitting team again this year :)

  • WendelGilmour

    The Top 25 Under 25 is actually pretty good (for PPP), the writer isn’t dripping with sarcasm and unwarranted criticism. Even if I disagree with some of it, many are ranked about where I have them.

    • 4evrblue

      WendelGilmour I don’t even see a list. Just an article that says there will be a list lol

      • maple1967leafs

        I couldnt find a list

        • mORRganRielly

          maple1967leafs They had one last year.  It’s there.  Their search function isn’t the best.  A lot of their content is hard to find.

        • 4evrblue

          mORRganRielly maple1967leafs yeah I found last years easy enough, old news and old prospects though. Looking forward to this years list when it comes out.

  • Burtonboy

    Fans ( me included ) worry too much about cap space.

    • 4evrblue

      Burtonboy have to admit it makes for good discussion at this time of year though. especially when you talk about players possibly being moved because of cap space. truth is we’re no different than any other team in previous years that looked like they would have to move valuable players to get under the cap and didn’t.

      • Burtonboy

        4evrblue Burtonboy Yep it does and I’ll keep talking about it lol. ( nothing else to do ) Thing is when I look at it seriously though  we have a long way to go and teams, leafs included always come up with ways to get under the cap . Holmgren has made a science out of it FFS lol

        • 4evrblue

          Burtonboy lol science, magic, call it what you want. We’ll be fine come training camp with all of our important pieces in place, thats the main thing :)

        • Burtonboy

          4evrblue Burtonboy I’m pretty sure they’ll get it figured out .

    • Knights2Leafs

      Burtonboy 
      You’re probably right in that.  It’s just that this is the worst year to have to try and get under the cap with the internal budget of many teams and the reduced cap of all.  I’ve felt pretty good the last couple of years the way the Leafs have managed the cap to put them at an advantage and then within weeks we have lost that advantage.
      Grrr – all that said,  I will never stop bitching about the Armstrong buyout. We could use that $1M right now. The very second I heard that I thought WTF, why are we trying to do Armstrong any favours and that was before he became a jerk about it.

  • Optimustic

    I hope we get both Franson and Kadri signed without moving other pieces, but if we don’t, it’s hard to say who could be moved.   Most other teams want inexpensive young players and may be willing to give up more to get them than JML.   I wouldn’t be surprised if one of our other D is moved instead of assuming that JML is bought out or traded.

    • Burtonboy

      Optimustic Which other D would we move though?

      • Optimustic

        Burtonboy Optimustic Not that I want to move any, but Gunner, is one.  Even Gardiner if we’re offered a good return and Fraser if Granberg is ready to take his place, though I doubt it.

        • Burtonboy

          Optimustic Burtonboy Personally I would let Franson walk first before letting Gardiner or Gunnar go . Fraser will have to compete hard for his spot anyway I think . Granberg and Blacker are gonna push him hard.

        • Optimustic

          Burtonboy Optimustic I’m not giving Gardiner away for sure, I want good prospects and or Picks for him.   Tough to say how good Granberg and Blacker are as I haven’t seen them much.  But you’re right, they’ll push him this year and likely replace him next year.
          We’re so deep on D that maybe one of our prospects could be included in a larger deal.  Maybe JML and Blacker for a forward and D

        • Burtonboy

          CanuckUKinToronto Burtonboy Optimustic I think we would wind up with far too many PMD’s if we let Gunnar go . Not liking our defense right now if we have Liles,Franson,and Gardiner in at the same time . Dion is offensive and even Ranger tends to jump up into the play a lot . We need more shutdown d then just Fraser

        • mcloki

          Morning gents. Injuries are going to sort this out sooner rather than latter.

        • Knights2Leafs

          Burtonboy
          I get what you’re saying, but really of Gardiner, Phaneuf, Franson and Liles, the only one that seems to play like a rover is Gardiner.  I think the other 3 would pick their spots. Add Ranger into that mix and I would say he and Phaneuf are both veteran enough to play shut down when they need to. 
          I would not be happy with the loss of Gunnar, but I think Franson has the better potential in the long run especially as a RD.

        • Burtonboy

          Knights2Leafs Burtonboy I’m not sold on Ranger yet or Franson for that matter being able to play an effective 2 way role. I want to keep them all but I think losing Gunnar right now would create a bigger hole then people realize

        • Knights2Leafs

          Burtonboy
          That I agree with.  It really boils down to whether the loss of Franson or Gunnar is the bigger loss and I don’t like the idea of either.  If we don’t get “rid” of Liles this year, we are only delaying the inevitable because I don’t see him here for another 3 years.

        • Burtonboy

          Knights2Leafs Burtonboy Neither do I  . Good chance Fraser won’t be around long term either . We will see what happens with Franson and Ranger but I wouldn’t be giving Franson a long term deal just yet . If he plays like he did in the 48 games schedule then yes sign him up long term

        • leafscapguru

          CanuckUKinToronto Knights2Leafs Burtonboy that is if he still has it, but some guy do better under pressure hope he is one of those guys

        • Burtonboy

          CanuckUKinToronto Knights2Leafs Burtonboy Whose been out of the NHL for 4 yrs . We will see

        • Dink

          Burtonboy Knights2Leafs Fraser probably won’t be back next year, I agree

        • Dink

          CanuckUKinToronto Burtonboy Knights2Leafs   resigning Fraser and also Ranger really shows that all the youngsters will play one more year at the minor level in the eyes of Leaf mgt.

        • Burtonboy

          @Dink CanuckUKinToronto Burtonboy Knights2Leafs Actually those deals with Ranger and Fraser are structured in a way that we could send both to the Marlies if a youngster made a case to be in the lineup this yr. We have to clear cap space anyway so the little bit of a hit we take for sending those guys down in minimal

  • Burtonboy

    CanuckUKinToronto I posted the signing when it happened . Very little response . People are not interested in talking about Sharks I guess.

    • Optimustic

      Burtonboy CanuckUKinToronto I remeber you posting it, It just didn’t surprise me.  Is it not a good signing?  I think it’ll be a good deal when the cap rises again.

    • Optimustic

      CanuckUKinToronto Burtonboy I like Clarkson ( we all do as far as I know ) but the concern is – with his style of play, will he still be the same player by the end of his contract?
        I don’t see the Western teams much so I don’t know Pavelski as well, but I think he’ll likely be nearly as good then as he is now.

    • Knights2Leafs

      CanuckUKinToronto
      I can live with the Clarkson signing but the 2 deals are not even close. Pavelski at 5 years much better than Clarkson at 7. Plus Pavelski is a mid range top 6 guy where Clarkson is lower on the top 6 ladder.
      Further context.  Grabo at $5.5M or Pavelski at $6M.  Not even close. Pavelski is a true 1B center.

  • Gerg3d

    Does anyone know if the second buyout window is contingent on an arbitration settlement?  Have the Leafs lost this opportunity by not taking Fraser to arbitration?

    • Burtonboy

      Gerg3d My understanding is they still have a buyout option . As long a s a team had 2 arb filings they meet the criteria

      • Gerg3d

        Burtonboy Gerg3d thanks for clearing that up.

      • gravyface

        Burtonboy Gerg3d I thought they had to actually go to arbitration, but might be a loophole/misinterpretation if I’m reading this correctly: 
        “However, in the event that a Club has only one salary arbitration
        hearing pursuant to Section 12.3(a) in a given League Year, such Club shall not be entitled to
        exercise such an Ordinary Course Buy-Out outside the regular period.”

        So we had a hearing scheduled but never actually had the hearing…

        • Burtonboy

          gravyface There are different opinions out there for sure. Wish a lawyer who has experience with CBA’s could give an opinion . I haven’t heard one yet

        • gravyface

          Burtonboy gravyface would be something for Alec to pursue with the Leafs brass this summer maybe?

        • Dink

          gravyface Burtonboy Gerg3d no one had a hearing

        • gravyface

          @Dink gravyface Burtonboy Gerg3d Thats what I’m thinking too: two filings, zero hearings equals no Ordinary Buyout available this year.

      • Burtonboy

        CanuckUKinToronto Burtonboy Gerg3d Gunnar

      • Knights2Leafs

        Burtonboy
        Busy summer, so hard to keep up, but is the second buyout option only for 48 hours?

        • Burtonboy

          Knights2Leafs Burtonboy opens 3 days after the last scheduled hearing and then only for 48 hrs

        • Dink

          Burtonboy Knights2Leafs wasn’t Zuccarello the last one?

        • Burtonboy

          @Dink Burtonboy Knights2Leafs Yep

  • http://twitter.com/jmckelvie RielledUp

    Aren’t you suppose to judge an off-season on how the season is going?… How can people say it’s a really bad off-season when the Leafs haven’t played one game? Jesus Christ I fucking hate PPP.

    • Uncle Otis

      RielledUp 
      Which is why I never go there..
      Gets us too “rielled up” which is their preferred outcome
      #TrollsRus

    • DWCMLHS

      RielledUp People can judge moves as they happen… If a team makes a deal, and one believes – given the information available at the time it is made – that it is unlikely to benefit the team when they do start playing, there’s nothing wrong with saying that.