Mike Komisarek came to Toronto in July 2009. Coming off a solid year with the Canadiens the bruising defeceman opted to test free agency which he did with much success. After all, signing a 5-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, averaging $4.5 million per season can be considered just that after you examine his current worth on the hockey market.
Komisarek had his best seasons playing alongside Andrei Markov, a highly skilled puck moving defenceman. Two of Markovâ€™s main attributes are his play under pressure and supreme skating skills, both of which managed to perfectly complement Komisarekâ€™s lack of speed and his tendency to get caught out of position when going for that big hit.
By now you probably heard that Luke Schenn's agent, Don Meehan, thinks that he'll be talking to the Leafs about a contract extension in the "near future."Â Â While he may not be an offensive machine (I believe there is still some upside there), at 23 21, he has blossomed into one of the leagues best shutdown defensemen. As you all know, Luke Schenn is our only remaining restricted free agent. Schenn led the team in both hits and blocked shots with 251 and 168 respectively.
While itâ€™s rather difficult to find Schennâ€™s comparable in terms of age and salary in the NHL right now, when we think of names like Brent Seabrook, Brooks Orpik or Zbynek Michalek who play similar roles on their teams and can be looked at in terms of pure value itâ€™s likely Schenn will be earning around 3.5 to 3.8 million per annum on his next NHL contract.
Contrary to popular belief, or Santaâ€™s Christmas wish list of other NHL teams, key free agents arenâ€™t really that hard to sign. Of course, if by hard you mean a somewhat long negotiation process that inevitably takes place when signing a player of Schennâ€™s caliber, then yes, negotiations are hard. On the other hand, if youâ€™re talking about the willingness of that player to stay in a rather healthy, improving environment, one he was drafted in, then Iâ€™m afraid the thought process has to be different. Then, things become a lot less complicated.
Today, I bring you a transcript of what turned out to be a really good, eye opening interview, with Nazem Kadri talking on Cybulski & Company (TSN). You can listen to the full interview here. The reporters really took a swing at the kid, throwing someÂ hardball questions his way but he passed with flying colors. I have to say I'm impressed.
Q: How do you feel about moving to the wing?
A: Yeah, I don't mind it, obviously I'm a natural centerman, but I've played the wing throughout my whole junior career as well and I've adjusted to both of them.
Q: Where do you see yourself fitting in to this team come training camp?
I love a lot of things. My family, girlfriend, friends, hockey. Life. But one of the more recent things Iâ€™ve started loving is the newly found optimism of Leafs Nation. Letâ€™s face it, coming into next season we finally have a legitimate reason to be somewhat optimistic.
Here Iâ€™m not talking about your usual it will be better next year type of optimism, no. My kind of optimism stems from being one of the better NHL teams towards the end of this yearâ€™s regular season and making a legitimate playoff push. And letâ€™s face it, fact is even if things donâ€™t change, right now weâ€™re a better team from the one that actually made that push.
Written in collaboration with Alec Brownscombe
There are still people who think that Burke should have been willing to, in order to land Brad Richards, join in on the cap circumvention party with a front loaded deal with bogus years attached at the end of it. Whether or not you agree with Burke's business morals here is secondary; Â on the management side of things, its simply responsible and smart to not engage in these deals, especially with a new CBA looming. Basically, the league canâ€™t prove these players won't play out the duration of their contracts until they, well, don't. Then you can expect penalties, and only then can we argue those deals as smart or the complete opposite.
Our guess is that these teams are going to regret going postal in this yearâ€™s free agency come the next CBA. As Leafs fans we know, or should know, this lesson all too well, as the Leafs were burdened by older players on not so good contracts after the lockout. The Leafs are poised to potentially exploit these overpaying teams as soon as this fall, as Rick Dudley pointed out, when they find themselves in a cap crunch. As we all know, when you sign these deals, unless you're Burke and you need to get rid of Blake, Toskala or Lebda (not a prime example but one that brings a smile to the face anyway), the solution is often separate from the problem. GMs are forced to trade off quality young assets alongside a salary dump in order to mend the situation and get their franchise back on track. [more…]
Similar to what I wrote after previous Leafs press conferences, I offer you my take on some of the more memorable, important and indicative quotes from Brian Burke, all taken from yesterdayâ€™s comments to the media. The entire press conference can be viewed here: http://mapleleafs.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=568696
On the Brad Richards sweepstakes:
â€œWeâ€™ve made a considerable offer to Brad Richards, what weâ€™ve offered I donâ€™t think is material, but we lost out on the Brad Richards sweepstakes for two reasons. One, we didnâ€™t offer as much money as other teams, and more importantly, we didnâ€™t structure the contract like other teams did. These deals that are front end loaded and have small amounts on the back end are in my opinion designed to circumvent the salary cap. I wonâ€™t do them, never have, am not going to and thatâ€™s why we were unable to sign Brad Richards.â€
Announced just fifteen minutes before the arbitration deadline, Clarke MacArthur will be in Blue and White for the next two seasons at $3.25 million per annum (the updated cap situation is availableÂ here, with the Leafs now at roughly $7.34 million in cap space with Schenn and Bozak left to sign).
It seems the talk from Brian Burke about going to arbitration and "re-evaluating" if theÂ settlementÂ was too high was a bit of a negotiating tactic to get this deal done before it went before an arbitrator. The talk for months was about Burke's unwillingness to go above three million a season for this player, but a return to Toronto is what both sides wanted and was accomplished with a little compromise (and perhaps som consideration for the new cap climate). 'Mac in the USSR' is back and what was a pleasant surprise of a season in 2010-11 has become the expectation for Clarke heading into 2011-12. [more…]
As usual, Brian Burke looks and sounds really confident. "Clarke MacArthur has arbitration rights and he may well file for arbitration. We're fine if that's what he chooses," said Burke. "We have a lot of financial clout behind this team and we have a lot of cap space. We're not worried about someone trying to take a player out of here through an offer sheet and we anticipate we'll be able to re-sign all the players we want to re-sign."
Considering how fond the management and coaching staff are of MacArthur,Â the fact his contract status remains an unsolved problem for the Leafs is somewhat surprising. On the other hand, him having a career year while being the league's best bargain last season in Clarke's mind could just as easily warrant a big pay day.
We could argue both sides equally. Clarke doesnâ€™t fit the bill of a greedy player. He clearly stated he wants to stay in Toronto, and showed heâ€™s a emotional, character player who played his heart out for the Leafs last season. On the other hand, we know how reluctant Burke is when it comes to giving significant salary increases to one year wonders. The differential between his second best season in the league and his career high last season is almost double in points; it's no wonder this is a tough negotiation in which Burke is playing hardball.
Apparently, Paul Holmgren is not the only GM that wants to re-tool his team. After a series of surprising UFA contracts the Sharks shocked everyone in the water tradingÂ star forward Dany Heatley to Minnesota in exchange for Martin Havlat, a forward that always had that star potential, but never quite got there.
This isnâ€™t the first time these two teams tangoed together in a trade this summer. During the NHL Entry Draft, the Sharks traded promising RW Devin Setoguchi, along with Charlie Coyle and a first round pick (2011) to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Brent Burns and a second round pick (2012).
Personally, itâ€™s pretty clear Minnesota won both trades. Yes, the Burns - Setoguchi trade looks like a good deal for both clubs because Burns still might end up as a great NHL defenseman but when you factor in Charlie Coyle (THNâ€™s 11th ranked prospect in the 2011 Future Watch edition) and a first round pick used to draft Zack Phillips this year, itâ€™s really hard not to see them as winners. [more…]
Let me guess, Tim Connolly isn't what you hoped for? Well, to tell you the truth he wasn't for this writer. Then again, Tim Connolly was the 2nd best center available in this yearâ€™s free agency and an option for an upgrade at center without having to give up assets.
Iâ€™d be the first to admit I didnâ€™t like the idea of overpaying for Brad Richards. Not only were his term demands only considered reasonable by New York and Glen Sather, Iâ€™m just not sure their logic of aggressively signing free agents is a sound one. It didnâ€™t exactly single handedly win Cups or produce any real results in the past. I did however silently pray that Richards would reconsider his term demands and that John Tortorella said something bad about his mother. Both reasons of course leading him to Toronto. There is a reason why you can't bank on a free agent with the freedom to chose his own destination, however. With the Rangers seemingly the front runner all along and the rest of the teams mentioned mere pawns to increase Pat Morris' bargaining power, sadly it didnâ€™t happen, and in the words of the immortal hockey hero Sean Avery, weâ€™re left with sloppy seconds.
Now for my overly optimistic or very reasonable assessment (depends which camp youâ€™re in) of Tim Connolly. Firstly, I donâ€™t like referring to a 65 point NHL player as sloppy seconds, however oft injured he might be. Secondly, this might just be the only player in Free Agency so far that hasnâ€™t been badly overpaid and actually wants to play in Toronto. To me, that means something.
It has been a crazy day. As we speak the Calgary Flames are pitching a plan to Brad Richards. Yes, the Calgary Flames are apparently [more…]
July 1st is finally here and regardless of a limited pool of exciting free agents, expectations in Leafs Nation are once again sky high. The big fish is obviously Brad Richards, a 31 year old skilled passing center, out of Murray Harbour, P.E.I., Canada.
Obviously, the biggest and most discussed need the Leafs have is at that top line center position and thatâ€™s exactly where the majority of fans and pundits keep putting Richards. His offensive acumen, imagination and playmaking ability would surely benefit Phil Kessel and his leadership already helped the development of players like Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.
Brad Richards tallied 90+ points twice in the NHL (91 both times) and crossed the 70 point plateau four more times. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts during the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Stanley Cup run and was selected for the All Star game in 2010-11. Such a player would certainly help the Leafs gain instant playoff credibility around the league but would undoubtedly come with a long term price tag.