Free Agent Frenzy: Day 1 Digest


All in all, there weren’t any miracles performed that we can be over the moon about yesterday, but the hope is that there was some incremental improvements made and — perhaps more importantly — some major mistakes avoided with the type of money that was doled out to the likes of Brooks Orpik and Dave Bolland.

Stephane Robidas

We’ll start with the new acquisition I’m most excited about.

Stephane Robidas has been a warrior in Dallas. He wears the evidence on his face. Maple Leafs management felt there was a need for more leadership, character, competitiveness and experience on this team, and the way to fix it is to bring in a few players who can provide those elements along with a meaningful, positive on-ice contribution that addresses an area of need.

In Robidas, they may well have found that sweet spot in the form of a solid, experienced complement for Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner on the second pair. Robidas has been a 20-22 minute defenceman who can handle tough assignments in the past; it’s just a matter of whether or not he bounces back to form at his ripe age following his second leg break in the span of a year. That’s not an injury that shouldn’t heal up (not like he broke his leg in the same spot twice), but it’s another battle scar on an aging 5’11, 190-pound body that has played a rugged game for 15 seasons in the NHL.

Robidas isn’t a highly-skilled puck rusher and mover, but he moves efficiently, has a solid first pass, has a strong compact build, owns a hard shot, and battles like hell; if he’s still got enough left in the tank (and that’s the obvious big risk), he’s been one of the missing ingredients on this blueline we’ve yearned for the past couple of trade deadlines. He should be able to help Dion out on and off the ice, and he’ll have Randy Carlyle’s trust.

$3 million is a slight hair trim on his previous $3.3 million salary and definitely agreeable for a July 1 salary, but it’s the extra year on the term that’s concerning. Worth the risk.

Matt Frattin

Matt Frattin is an interesting reclamation project for the Maple Leafs, who know the player quite well and are likely in tune with what’s held him back from taking the next step. On the surface, the issues with his game appear to be between the ears, because there’s an impressive physical package here; he’s solidly built with a good stride, and has some puck skills to go along with a good shot.

Jerry D’Amigo represents an unfortunate loss of a capable PKer and honest-as-it-gets fourth line option, with a little bit of potential to grow into a little more. What the Leafs are thinking is that it’s a cheap venture (Frattin signed for 2-years, 800k AAV) on a player with, ostensibly, more upside.

It should be noted the Kings were through with this player rather quickly after giving him an opportunity up the lineup early on, and Columbus was looking to move him rather than give him a contract after just a couple of months there, having acquired him in the Marian Gaborik trade. It’s possible the Leafs gave up a three-years-younger homegrown foot soldier who can kill penalties and provide a little secondary scoring in exchange for a player who is just never going to put it together.

And maybe Frattin never would’ve left in the first place if he just buried the 5-1 put-away goal versus Bos– let’s not go there.

Leo Komarov

We all love Leo Komarov. Tough to play against, finishes every check, draws penalties and can kill penalties, and does it all with a “why you heff to be mad” comportment.

I think we’re all also unanimous on the contract being a little rich. At $2.95 million AAV, we’re looking at the closest cap comparables in the likes of Jamie McGinn, Joel Ward, Michael Grabner, Sean Bergenheim… There’s a certain level of expected secondary offensive output at that figure which hadn’t yet manifested itself in Komarov’s brief 48-game NHL stint. And then there’s the term; while Komarov seems like the type of guy who will go through a wall to prove he deserves the faith and the dollars invested in him, as a general rule I prefer to keep players like Komarov hungry on shorter-term deals.

Unquestionably, there’s something to be said for this Leafs team needing to — excuse the cliche – play the game the right way. The Leafs badly need a consistent cycle and energy element out of the lines in their bottom six if they’re to change the tone of their team following the stories of Leafs receiving the embarrassing label of “easiest team to play against” in the dressing rooms of their opponents last year. Faulty, passive systems that allowed for a record-number of shots were a part of that, but not the full picture. For as bad as David Clarkson was last season, he can’t be left on an island as a cycle player who wants to put in the work down low.

The right mix of players can yield scoring by-committee (as Ken Hitchcock says — play the right way and the points will come), but there obviously has to be a measure of scoring talent in there somewhere. Frattin absolutely has the capability and Komarov might based on his KHL production, but if Kulemin’s gone (not a sure bet) as well as Mason Raymond (who was a little more than a third-liner last season, but the point remains), the Leafs are going to be banking on a track record of production that simply isn’t present with these latter two like it is the former pair.

Granted, the Leafs aren’t done their summer moves, may still be looking into a few wing options and will almost definitely add a center (could Nik Kulemin still factor into this equation as a versatile option at both positions?). I’ll wait to say anything further until we have a more complete picture.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of, 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]
  • silverleaf

    Like the balanced assessments. That’s a stellar breakdown, thanks brother.

  • 4evrblue

    Great writeup, thx Alec. 
    All points are exactly how I feel. I like Robidas and all but the deal seems a little long. Not gonna complain other than that. I like Frattin but feel D’Amigo could be the long time NHLer over him. Thing is if both do end up being long time NHLers I would expect Frattins production to be higher. Really wanted to see Jerry in the playoffs too. Love Leo but thats an expensive contract for him. Again, not trying to complain about the players, just the deals and contracts. All of these moves are the same as the Polak trade to me, like the player but the value in the trade seemed off.
    Anyway, off to work. Have a good one MLHS

  • Great Dane

    Taking a step back from the action yesterday as well as the action that didn’t work out, my view is that the coming season will be an in-between season.

    The defense might be better with Robidas, but at center we are a lot worse. That Bolland is gone to Florida is only a blessing, so no complaints there, but that doesn’t change the fact that Leafs are very very weak at center. In my  assessment probably the worst in the league.

    Franson obviously is on the move and so is Reimer. Phaneuf will be move if the right package is there. All in all Nonis is planning a major fire sale during the season.

    Signing Vrbata or any other winger on a short term contract would only confirm this.

    Prediction for the summer and next season:
    – Leafs signs a winger on short term contract.
    – Franson, Reimer, Lupul and maybe Phaneuf will be moved.

    – Nylander will make the team (unfortunately)
    – Carlyle or Carlyle’s system will not improve, but he will not be sacked until around Christmas when it is too late.
    – Before the trade dead line Shanahan and Nonis will have fire sale.

  • Zeus_WilliamMapleLeafs

    I wont deny Im dissapointed in yesterdays effort by our impotent GM.
    Not getting Stastny was disappointing seeing as nothing on our line up comes close. So by reckoning adding him would vastly improve the team. But you cantforce a guy if he doesnt want to come.
    Robidas for me is a crazy contract for an old guy. Sure theres character but there is plenty of character in Leo Komarov but people on here were up in arms that we spent over 1.2million that most seemed to think he was worth (?). Atleast hes young and has time for improvement. Dont get me wrong 5 years ago Robidas was a beast and in my opinion in the top 10 d-men out there. But his numbers and ice time have dropped off and I actually thought he was going to retire sooner rather than later. A big risk, added to the price of Gleasons buyout this D roster position has become expensive and could well come back and bite us on the ass.
    Leos signing was decent. Nice term, glad it was more than a single year – a clear fan favourite. 2.9 was at the level I predicted and got laughed off of on here. Leos signing was for me the best thing that happened this past week and we havent really addressed any of our needs and it looks unless we deal Lupul or Kadri or both that we will have another mediocre season with the crowd making more effort around the ice than the players have ability on the ice. This team as it stands at the moment is slightly defensively better but the forward line is a catastrophe and not close to anything we have put out the past 8 years. Prediction as it stands. Not in the top 11/12 in the Eastern. Prospects picks and money was not enough for Nonis to get anything done like it is for the other 29 GMs

  • Great Dane

    Zeus_WilliamMapleLeafs  I am not even sure that Buffalo will be much worse than the Leafs.

    My estimate for next season is 65-70 points maybe less the longer Carlyle is the coach

  • Great Dane

    Of the teams behind Leafs in league most have improved:

    Canes:   A bit of a dark horse not really better not really worse
    Isles:        Halak can from time to time stop a puck so they improved
    Canucks:  Miller should help them and Torts is gone so that is an upgrade.
    Flames:    Hiller should help in goal so a clear upgrade.
    Oilers:      Defense should be better – but who knows with the Oilers
    Panthers:  Luongo the entire season, Mitchell, Bolland plus Drouin should be ready – they have improved.
    Sabres:    Slightly better than last season but they can’t fall part like they did last season.

    Almost all the bottom teams went out and got upgrades in goal. I could see Jets and Sens fall in the standing.

    I think that Leafs it a bottom 3 team next season as they stand right now with Carlyle behind the bench

  • SayHeyKid

    Tim Gleason had two years remaining on a contract that came with a
    $4M/year cap hit (total=$8M). He’s a 31 year old, 6′, 217 lbs, left
    handed defenceman.
    According to the ‘Hockey News’, the scouting
    report on Gleason: “Is capable of playing a shutdown role, due to a
    combination of hockey sense, mobility and an aggressive nature. Also has
    a little offensive acumen. A good team player, he always works
    extremely hard and sacrifices his body.”
    Stephane Robidas has
    three years remaining on a new contract with a $3M/year cap hit (total
    $9M). He’s a 37 year old, 5’11”, 196lbs, right handed defenceman.
    to the ‘Hockey News’, the scouting report on Robidas: “Moves the puck
    quickly and effectively out of the defensive zone. Is a very heady
    player with solid all-around ability. Steps up in big spots. Is always
    willing to take a hit to make a play. Dishes it out, too.”
    Basically the Leafs are just replacing one 5th/6th defenceman, with another.
    you were to tack on the Gleason buyout onto the Robidas numbers, you
    would find that Robidas ultimately cost $3M + (buyout average of
    $1.333M/year)= $4.333M/year over the three year term, plus an extra
    $1.333M cap hit in 2017/18. Whereas the Leafs would have saved money,
    and have been out from under Gleason’s contract by 2015/16.
    In my
    opinion, not only does this move make little cap management sense, but
    it really doesn’t add up in terms of value for player either. They both
    play a tough, stay-at home, solid transitional type of game. Gleason
    averaged .20 points per game versus Robidas who averaged .28 points per
    game. But Gleason is bigger and 6 years younger, while Robidas broke his
    leg twice last year and is in the twilight of his career.
    I just can’t see how the big brains at Leaf management ever thought this was a smart move!?!

  • TuckerForPunishment

    SayHeyKid “Robidas: “Moves the puck
    quickly and effectively out of the defensive zone”


    Great Dane Connor McDavid here we come!

  • SayHeyKid

    TuckerForPunishment SayHeyKid 
    A healthy Robidas from a few years ago might have been a great pickup. But the Leafs could have saved cap space and done just as well with Gleason. It’s just poor cap management.