(Saturday Mashup) Tread Carefully

Photo: mapleleafs.nhl.com

Yesterday, the New York Rangers pulled the trigger on a buyout many had long since called, literally from the day after the initial signing occurred: “Within a few seasons, Brad Richards will join Drury and Redden as a cap casualty, both of whom had their career reputations damaged by the horrible contracts handed to them by the New York Ranger franchise.”

It was widely known Brad Richards always wanted to go join John Tortorella and play in the Big Apple that summer, but naturally I harken back to Brian Burke’s philosophy against these monstrous back-diving deals that were loophole’d in the last CBA. Should Richards retire before the 2018 season, from 2018 to 2020 the Rangers will be hit with a $5.66 million annual cap penalty due to the new CBA’s recapture clause. Devastating.

It next makes me think about the buyout suicide it would require to expunge the David Clarkson contract. There’s little doubt a player of Clarkson’s ilk (from his Jersey days, anyway) would tick a lot of boxes for Brian Burke in terms of what he likes in a player, but it makes me wonder how Burke approaches that same negotiation. Does he draw the line at 5 years, his self-imposed contractual length limit that applied to all but the elite players of the League? Does he go back to Clarke MacArthur, who was his best-value UFA signing and continues to provide good value for his contract in Ottawa, with an offer when he finds out the term demands of Clarkson’s camp?

By this point these are pretty worthless questions riddled with hindsight bias, but a) it’s not like we have real Leafs news to talk about, and B) at this time of year, there’s relevancy in at least talking about these deals and learning from the history. The Leafs have made so many mistakes on July 1, going back to Blake, Finger, Komisarek, Armstrong, etc. The list winds on, and as much as we can say Burke was onto something with his admonishment of cap-circumventing deals as well as stupid-long term deals in general, it was Burke who signed some of those overpayments. Real solutions exist rarely in the form of big contracts in unrestricted free agency, but it’s certainly the case if management overpays for mediocre talent.

Jonas Siegel had a good quote on this on the radio yesterday: “I look at some of the better clubs in the NHL, and when they do spend on free agency 1) they spend on skill. Look at Marian Hossa for the Blackhawks. On July 1st they signed Hossa to a massive deal. Granted, that could come back to haunt them a little bit, but they got a couple Cups and they paid for skill.  If you’re going to pay in free agency, you’ve got to pay for high-end skill. I think one of the problems in Toronto with the Leafs is that they’ve paid average players on good contracts and they’ve paid good players on great contracts. They’re always in a situation where they’re paying for what the player isn’t… It just creates so many problems in the cap era.”

Leafs management shouldn’t let the Clarkson contract make them completely gun shy if there is a legitimate opportunity to dole out big money on an actual high-end talent, but that requires identifying the key difference Siegel is talking about (see: Stastny, Paul vs. Bolland, Dave). The inability to do that has hurt this organization throughout the succession of four straight general managers.

Saturday Links:

Previous articleAll Toronto Maple Leafs Goals 2013-2014
Next article(Sunday Mashup) Corey Pronman on TSN 1050
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]
  • BigTO

    Profound offering this morning, Alec.
    Leafs management in this pre-FA interview period will soon know where things stand with both Stastny and Bolland.
    If Stastny is a no go, it doesn’t make an overpayment on Bolland any smarter. The Leafs have to start getting this right.

  • MaxwellHowe

    The only plausible way to find your top 2D and #1C is thru the draft.  Thankfully, from what I see, the Leafs are going to have nice high picks in the next several drafts. Maybe mgt. can not F up for a change and refrain from trading those picks.

  • Zeus_WilliamMapleLeafs

    Nice write up Alec. What gets me angry is that our management hasnt looked around the league and looked what they are doing. If Bettmans Rangers or LA sign their players to ridiculous contracts then they are safe. What I mean by that is all you have to do is wait for the next bargaining agreement and an obscure once in a life time rule will bail you out. Like the compliance buyouts.
    They get to have silly contract win cups whilst we stay stagnant with some outdated moral code and win sod all. I would like to have seen the buy outs have a maximum dollar’age. I dont see it as fair that Rangers can buy out two 100 year 6million per contracts and enjoy play off hockey with said monstrosities whilst we weigh up whether we should buy out Liles or 1 year of Komisarek for a grand total of 4 million.
    Im thoroughly pissed off with us abiding by rules and taking the moral high ground whilst paying all our hard earned cash to support another countries (USA) hockey teams who flout the rules left right and centre.

  • HeatherRickAkin

    I second what BigTO said…very nice work, Alec. Vis avis Dave Bolland, and the type of $$$ he will want…bye bye, Dave. A decent player, but really, the part of his resume that has Leaf fans drooling is the ten games he played before being skewered by that animal in Vancouver, and , being in the Boston crease at the opportune time to tap in the Cup winner a year ago.. Too much coin for a solid 3rd liner. On a little different note, I wonder if there is a trade to be made with Edmonton for Sam Gagner ? I know, I know….Gagner isn’t the right Sam , but I think he still tops out as a little better centre than the Leafs presently have . I don’t think he is paid anywhere near Bolland money (but I am not sure on that) . Would Clarkson, Holland , Franson  and our #8 get you Gagner and the #3 ?  If so, then you may still get a shot at Bennett ….

  • WendelGilmour

    Well said, Alec. The comments Siegel made about overpaying everyone are bang on, and it’s gotta stop.

  • Yaknowwhat

    Great read Alec….I like what Bolland brings to our team….gritty player…solid 3rd liner…leadership abilities..wants to play in Toronto….all that said it would be a huge error to hand this guy a long term big dollar contract…at the end of the day he’s still just a 3rd liner…and he’s had some injury issues..it really comes down to his demands….all indications are those demands are high…like it or not you have to draw a line in the sand and be willing to walk away…last thing the Leafs need is another questionable long term contract…

  • maple1967leafs

    If i were Nonis i would take a vacation right after the draft and skip free agency until about the 3rd of July,Overpay is all that happens on July 1

  • WendelGilmour

    This is why I argued a couple of years ago Kuli should not have been re-signed at an increase. His production had fallen off a cliff, and he had disappeared. Here we are again with Kuli, who has regressed further and will no doubt be looking for another increase, which Nonis should not do. Really dumb not to move him at one of the last two trade deadlines, imo. Dumber to give him a raise just to keep him.

    This is also why I don’t buy the “when the cap goes up this deal will be a bargain” argument, because until you get there you are screwed, and you will likely never catch-up. Same applies to the “his percentage of the cap will be the same”, if we follow that philosophy while overpaying now, we will never get out of this mess.

  • Yaknowwhat

    Agreed….Kulimen is not same player anymore…his work ethic and production have plummetted…and now he’ll be looking for a nice raise….for what exactly? he should of been dealt..poor asset management if you ask me…

  • maple1967leafs

    CanuckUKinToronto Yaknowwhat Myers i don’t know,I think we should stick with developing our own d-men,But Kane is a different story,I’ve watched him quite a bit this year,Some nights he is a beast other nights he should be selling eskimo pies in the stands,But when he is into the game he is awesome,I would take a crack at him if the price was right