Looking for Loopholes in Joffrey’s Deal

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You’d think we were still waiting for the season to start with number of contract posts that have gone up in the past 24 hours. I think the Lupul trade has been analyzed very well by a number of Leafs bloggers (here’s Alec’s take from yesterday), but the fact that this has been discussed so much will not prevent me from weighing in on why I partially like this signing, but ultimately still conclude that it was a bad idea. I think this deal if managed properly could actually benefit the Leafs, and I’ll toss in my $.02 on that as well.

First, some of the details on the contract (via Capgeek), It’s a five year deal paying $5.25 million equally in every season, the deal ending before Lupul’s 35th birthday. Lupul, when asked, would be required to submit a list of fourteen teams he’d accept a trade to.

Those of you who have seen my take on the John-Michael Liles deal will know I’m not the biggest fan of locking up players with injury risks throughout their early thirties, so it’s not too much of shock that I have some reservations about this contract as well. There’s also the issue that this deal is based off an out of nowhere career year when Lupul was 28, something that, with only game played this season, he hasn’t been able to prove he can duplicate.

I don’t think I will elaborate much further on the downside, as that has been well documented, but rather I’ll try and find some positives. At the very least, Lupul should be able to sustain a top six role for the majority of his contract. We may never see him on a point per game pace, but I feel comfortable he can still fit this role. If I’m wrong, the downside is that Joffrey does not possess the defensive awareness or physicality to offer any value in the bottom six.

Lupul will not likely be a blockade for young top six wingers like Kadri, or van Riemsdyk, but rather a safety net to assure the Leafs maintain a certain level of skill while they develop. Lupul’s contract may be on the steep side of things, but with a small number of top six forwards ever being made available throughout the league, it seems as if the Leafs would be able to move him if they were to feel satisfied with their top six group without him.

It’s Lupul as a safety net that I think is the greatest benefit of this signing. It has been no secret that a lot of eggs have been put in the basket that Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Stephen Weiss, and similarly skilled forwards will all be hitting the free agent market and that Toronto will be interested. The reality will likely be the same as other recent free agency crops; a slew of re-signings leading up to a bidding war on one or two notables. Let’s say the Leafs are successful in landing those notables, they may still be able to move Lupul to one of the teams that were looking for an above average forward.

So what makes sense as a plan for Lupul? The way I see it, the following options exist:

A)     A signed Joffrey Lupul may carry greater value on the trade market, and he presently he might be able to bring the Leafs a return of a starting goaltender or top four defenseman. Both key areas of focus. I doubt this is the plan, but on Lupul’s current deal his no trade clause is lifted if the Leafs do not make the playoffs. That would give the Leafs the chance to deal him anywhere at the draft. Seriously, I’d like to see this, but it’s not going to happen.

B)      The Leafs have a successful free agency period, and Lupul is deemed unnecessary in the future plans of the team. The Leafs ask him for his 14 teams, and they try and make something work. This seems just as unlikely as the previous situation, but again Lupul may have more value signed and could be used as bait for a team with passable goaltending.

C)      The Leafs are unable to sign Phil Kessel, and either due to a trade or simply because of losing Kessel to free agency the Leafs will need to rely on Lupul to continue on in his top six role. This also holds true if any other top six wingers do not pan out. He will still be on a decline, but I can comfortably see Lupul adding worthwhile value to a top six role throughout the length of his contract. I’d just be more concerned about his injuries.

D)     The 2014 Buyout. Much like if Liles implodes, the same holds true for Lupul. If he sucks, potentially there’s a chance to use a compliance buyout on him.

E)      The most likely case is that we move forward with the assumption that Lupul will continue to be a Leaf (and a well paid one at that). He’s an alternate captain and he’s integrated into the Leafs community initiatives, so he’s part of the longer term plans. If he goes off the rails we’ll bitch and moan about him, if he does well we’ll likely continue to imagine whether or not it’s time to cut and run on him, as his value will only decrease with time.

In an expensive, longer term deal like this one on an older player there is no shortage of negative angles to it, and ultimately I can’t see why on a struggling team like the Leafs you wouldn’t exploit his value at the trade deadline and try and gain an advantage for the future with a very deep draft. As good as that sounds, there comes a point when you have to stop selling off all of your assets, and if Lupul is a player that Nonis and Carlyle see as key to their future success, it might be worth keeping the known over gambling on the mystery box.

Monday Morning Links…

Toronto Re-signs Joffrey Lupul for Five Years
I think Cam sums up my concerns over this deal perfectly.

Joffrey Lupul signed to a Five Year Contract Extension
Initial reactions to this deal are that the Leafs screwed up. Can’t say I disagree as it’s an expensive deal. If you ignore how much he’s making, it’s less objectionable to think the Leafs locked up a decent forward for 5 years.

Joffrey Lupul’s Contract Value: Point/Counterpoint
I’ll be sitting on the fence about this deal for a while.

HNIC’s 60th Anniversary Montage and Thoughts on the New Studio Panel
The montages are the last redeeming thing about HNIC. That and Elliotte Friedman.

Can Carlyle now do what Pat Quinn did in his first season behind the Leafs bench?
I know a lot of people aren’t big on Carlyle, but I think he’ll get a few unexpected performances out of the Leafs. Do I think he’ll turn around last year’s train wreck in 48 games? No.

Ice Hogs Bench Clearing Brawl Video
The highlight is watching the goaltender go zooming across the screen at the 11 second mark.

Canucks stick with Luongo as Goaltender Controversy Continues
This can only end hilariously.

Game Day Prediction for tonight vs. Buffalo: Leafs win 4-2. JVR gets his first goal as a Leaf.

Toronto Maple Leafs tickets