(Photo: Getty Images)
The naming of Joffrey Lupul as an alternate captain and the announcement of his charity initiative Lupes Troops (granted this doesn’t always guarantee a spot in Toronto for the indefinite future) in recent days were both indicators that Nonis and Carlyle see Lupul as a face of the franchise going forward. Faces of the franchise usually need long term contracts, but few would’ve expected one for Lupul this soon in the season.
The NHLPA has ratified the new CBA, now the NHL and NHLPA will sign off on the pre-CBA document known as a Memorandum of Understanding. Two hours after the ink is dry on the MOU, player signings and trades can begin in preparation for the new season.
For the Leafs’ part, they are expected to announce the signing of defenceman Cody Franson to a one-year deal for a shade over a $1 million: A cheap one-year re-up to bring the right-hander back from Sweden in time for camp and have him compete for the spot vacated by Luke Schenn. Failing Franson’s ability to crack the lineup, this is still a win as the Leafs retain possession of a tradable asset.
Not too much of this for Kulemin this season (Photo Credit: AP).
Not too much of this for Kulemin this season (Photo Credit: AP).
The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed winger Nikolai Kulemin to a two-year, estimated $5.6-million contract this morning.Â The Leafs avoided the potentially acrimonious arbitration process, signing the Magnitogorsk native to a deal with a modest cap hit of $2.8-million.
Kulemin, a 2006 second round draft pick, struggled mightily prior to a season-ending finger injury last season, posting career lows with seven goals and 28 points in 70 games.Â He scored 30 goals for the Maple Leafs in the 2010-2011 season.
The two-year term means Kulemin will be a UFA at deal’s end, as opposed to a “show me” one-year deal which would’ve seen him become an RFA again next off-season, but there’s little doubting this is good value if Kulemin’s offensive game even half rebounds.
Restricted free agent Nikolai Kulemin
So,Â Nik Kulemin is up for Club Elected Arbitration. Seems interesting, and given Burkeâ€™s statements in the past about arbitration Iâ€™d assume theyâ€™ll actually go through the process. What this means is that Kulemin will likely be on a one year deal, giving him one more round of restricted free agency after this one. Not a bad way for the Leafs to hold the cards, but it also gives Kulemin a chance to show if heâ€™s the seven goal scorer we saw last season or if heâ€™s the 30 goal scorer from the previous season (TRUTH: heâ€™s somewhere in between.)
Arbitrations are generally not a fun process and best of all the decision results in either taking the one year deal or letting Kulemin walk for nothing. Joy! So, what is Kulemin likely to get out of this? Letâ€™s take a gander.
The Leafs have added some strength down the middle by signing Jay McClement to a two-year deal worth $3 million total.
They were also able to agree to terms with Matt Frattin on a two-year deal that totals $1.7 million, while resigning Ryan Hamilton and Jussi Rynnas as well as adding Mike Kostka to the organization, too.
It wasn’t a banner day for the Leafs, but it was still an important one.
Most notably, they finally added the third line center they’ve needed for quite some time and that has serious ramifications on the rest of the roster.
The Leafs have signed Jay McClement to a 2-year, $3-million (1.5 mil. per) contract. McClement is a 29-year-old centerman from Kingston, Ontario (that one’s for you, Don Cherry). A left handed shooter, he stands 6Â ftÂ 1Â in tall and weighs in at 205 lbs.
He is your prototypical shutdown centerman with little offense. But what he does, he does well.
A guy with good faceoff numbers, McClement is a player who is more mobile than Steckel, excels on the penalty kill and has decent size.
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Ah, July 1st. The day we celebrate our nation’s birth by tracking NHL free agent signings.
The Maple Leafs enter UFA Day with 14 million and change in cap space, but I wouldn’t expect them to spend too much of it today, as all indications remain that Burke will do his heavy lifting via trade.
While Burke has made it clear he won’t be in the mix for the two big fish in Parise and Suter in any meaningful way, one thing that may be on the mandate for Burke today is the addition of size up front (and possibly a right handed defenceman).
PHOTO: Ghetty Images. PLAYERS: Probably won't be Leafs.
PHOTO: Getty Images. PLAYERS: Probably won't be Leafs.
NHL Free Agency was, originally, to be a major component of the Brian Burke ‘rebuild’ model – or ‘retool,’ whatever you want to call it – when the Maple Leafs’ new GM arrived in Toronto. And despite perpetual inflation, it remains the surest and easiest avenue for a team to obtain top-quality players in their prime without sacrificing any organizational assets beyond cash. Factoring in the promises of a quick turnaround and transactions we shall not name, lest we incite debate involving high-end draft picks exchanged for promising young stars, free agency to the Brian Burke model becomes…well, not quite a necessity…but a really, really valuable step in getting the Toronto Maple Leafs back to the Stanley Cup finals as efficiently as possible.
One can’t exactly say it’s worked out nicely, thus far.
The problem, as Burke’s lamented, has been the distinct lack of premier free agents available. Teams have compensated for the league’s attempts to “liberalize” the market by locking up their talented players before they become UFAs.
Some free agency news this evening, presented without comment:
Heâ€™s been associated with the Phoenix Coyotes (ne Winnipeg Jets) franchise for so long that no one could see this coming. But general manager Don Mahoney confirmed on NHL Radio on Tuesday that teamÂ captain Shane Doan will test the free agent market starting on Sunday.
Doan, 35, has spent every one of his 17 seasons with Winnipeg/Phoenix and is the only remaining Coyote to have been a Jet. He is coming off a five-year, $22.75 million contract, and his 50 points (22 goals) was his lowest output in 10 seasons.
Doan is considered one of hockeyâ€™s best leaders (he is a two-time captain of Team Canada at the world championships), and another franchise might be willing to overlook his sliding production to add the intangibles he brings to its locker room. He has 318 goals and 788 points in 1198 games.
From Darren Dreger:
Shane Doan wants to stay in Arizona, but ownership instability may force him to test free agency. The list of interested teams will be long.
MLHS reader Charlie posed an interesting question this morning:
“Why is [Shea] Weber a RFA after this contract? [Zach] Parise, same draft year, is UFA next year.”
On the surface, it does seem a bit odd – two players, same draft year, both went to arbitration, yet one will be a restricted free agent in a year while the other will be unrestricted. How exactly does that work?
The answer to that quandary lies in a sliding condition in the CBA which is currently known as the “27 or 7″ Rule.
After failing to agree to terms on a new contract, the Blackhawks have chosen to walk away from defenseman Chris Campoli’s $2.5 million arbitration award. The 27 year old puck-mover will become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any club. However, the Mississauga native has expressed an interest in joining his childhood team, the Maple Leafs.
Much like with the Clarke MacArthur signing for $1.2 million last summer, the Leafs appear to be in prime position to land a capable young player at a potentially reduced salary should they so choose. The problem lies in the current backlog of potentially seven NHL calibre defensemen already cluttering up Toronto’s blueline. That’s not including Matt Lashoff or top prospect Jake Gardiner, whom GM Brian Burke believes may be ready to see some time with the big club at some point later this year. With that said, it should be noted that through various trades and injuries, the Maple Leafs dressed 10 different names on their blueline in 2010-2011.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Leafs choose to explore this route, as it’s not very often you see talented young players become available for only money, and potentially reasonable money at that. Campoli has developed into a fairly well-rounded second pairing defenseman over the past few seasons, playing 18-20 minutes a night, displaying good offensive instincts and mixing in a little sandpaper to his game as well. For anything around the $1.5 million range, I’d take a gamble on a talented young guy who wants to be a Maple Leaf and let the depth issues sort themselves out through injury or trade later on down the road.
Photo Credit: flickr.com
Photo Credit: AP/Jack Dempsey
The Leafs continue to plug the holes on their roster with today’s signing of bottom-six center Philippe Dupuis, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche.Â Dupuis secured himself a two-way deal from Toronto, hoping to build onÂ 2010-2011, hisÂ first full NHL season in which he accumulated 17 points in 74 games.Â More importantly, he displayed energy and hustle on most nights, above and beyond that of his at-times despondent teammates.Â He has a penchant for hitting with some penalty killing aptitude and should compete for the fourth line center spot with the Leafs this fall.
Photo Credit: mapleleafs.nhl.com
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.
Will we see Mac receive more awkward Kulemin embraces next season? (Photo Credit: DAVID DENOMA/REUTERS)
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.
"I never liked Carrie Underwood anyway"
"I never liked Carrie Underwood anyway" (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
In part 2 of our ongoing analysis of the 2011 Off-season, weâ€™ll be looking at the July 3rd, 2011 trade that saw Brett Lebda, a conditional 4th round pick in 2013 and Robert Slaney (who?) shipped out to Nashville in exchange for head patient Matthew Lombardi and Leaf-fan Cody Franson.Â After the jump, weâ€™ll take a longer look at the acquisitions and what it means for the Leafs come October
His tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs might only be a footnote in the annals, albeit an expensive one.Â Lombardi comes to Toronto as the 7 million dollar service charge for Cody Franson one year into a 3 year-10.5 million dollar deal he signed with Nashville.Â His 2010 â€“ 2011 season was cut short when he suffered a devastating concussion â€“ his second – on October 13, 2010 against the Chicago Blackhawks.Â The reality is that Lombardi isnâ€™t ready resume workouts, almost nine months after sustaining the injury.
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:
Brian Burke told me “weâ€™re going to sit back and catch our breath now â€¦ I donâ€™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.
Photo Credit: Zimbio.com
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.
Retaining this flow might have added a layer of concussion protection. Poor choice Tim.
It’s been an interesting few days in Leaf land to say the least. Leafs brass opted to sit on their hands on Friday as the rest of the league’s front offices threw significant sums of money at free agents like a bunch of drunken sailors, leading some angry fans to assume true the least logical possibility that Burke simply said “screw it all!” in favour of an Afghan vacation. With Brad Richards choosing to consign himself to a Wade Redden-esque fate in the Big Apple, Leafs management sprung into action on day two with the signing of 30-year-old centerman Tim Connolly to a two-year, $9.5 million contract. Then, on day three, the Leafs proceeded to buy Cody Franson off of Nashville (more to come on that in Part 2).
Firstly, let’s get this out of the way about Brad Richards, and the dog and pony show that was last Friday at Newport Sports. Brian Burke flew to Sweden on the eve of 2009 free agency in hopes of sitting down with the Sedin twins if they became unrestricted at noon of July 1st. He went to meet Jonas Gustavsson on the same trip, who was at the time a target of the Leafs and was grieving the recent loss of his mother, whose funeral Burke offered to attend. If Burke felt the Leafs had a chance at signing Brad Richards on Friday, he would have been there with Cliff Fletcher and Dave Nonis making his pitch at Newport Sports. Instead, Burke decided to, in the pursuit something worthwhile, support a cause important to himself and the team over in Afghanistan on Canada Day. There’s a lot of questions to be asked about the way Brad Richards and his representatives conducted their business on Friday, but when it comes down to it there’s a reason why you can’t rely on a free agent with control over his own destiny as the key to your organization’s future plans. Regardless of the ballyhoo that surrounded the entire process, Richards as a UFA had the right to choose his next team on whatever basis he desired; city preference, or for a coach that probably won’t be there for more than a quarter of his contract. May he join Drury and Redden in cap casualty hell, both of whom had their career reputations ruined by the horrible contracts handed to them by the New York Ranger franchise.
Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
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.
Some quick tidbits from Brad Richards’ interview with Hockey Central late Friday night:
- When pressed on the factors most important to Brad’s decision making process, he listed a stable ownership group and a commitment to win both in the short and long-term. He specifically cited the Tampa Bay situation where the team was blown up just two years after taking home the Cup as something he does not want to go through again.
- A decision will most likely come sometime earlier in the day on Saturday. Brad had originally hoped to have the matter resolved on the first day, but the overwhelming presentations needed a little more time to be digested. He apparently slept on it last night and will now talk to his family this morning and make a decision shortly afterward. Richards: “There’s no need for it to drag further than tomorrow. I don’t want this to become a sideshow.”
- The field has apparently been narrowed down to four teams. They are believed to be the Rangers, Maple Leafs, Kings and Flames. The first three teams have all met in person with Richards and his group while the Flames conducted a phone session with Brad’s former GM Jay Feaster.
- The Maple Leafs’ offer has been rumored to be the largest of the bunch, but is structured more evenly without the backsliding element or bogus years of its competitors. With Burke on record against those type of deals as a form of cap circumvention, and having testified against the Kovalchuk deal, we will see if it takes the Leafs out of the running. The consensus amongst industry experts appears to be that the Rangers are the current frontrunners to land the all-star centreman’s services.
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