Favouritism for Toronto?

The next time some drunken buffoon tells you that the league favours the Leafs because the league's head offices are in the same building as the ACC tell him this story. And then throw a beer in his face. Preferably his own because you'd hate to waste your own beer.

"We can confirm that the Toronto Maple Leafs have been sanctioned by the league for violations of league rules in connection with the club's 2008 signing of Jonas Frogren, and that one aspect of the league-imposed discipline requires the forfeiture of the club's fourth round draft pick in the 2009 Entry Draft (previously acquired from Tampa Bay). We have no further comment on the matter."

- Bill Daly via Darren Dreger

Let's not put lipstick on a pig, this decision seems to be a situation where the Leafs are being punished for knowing the rules inside out and being too creative for the league's comfort. Let's look at the timeline on this fiasco.

First, the league tried to nix the Leafs' contract with Frogren on a technicality centred around Frogren's status through the transition between the old CBA and the post-lockout CBA. Update: The NHLPA and the Leafs filed a grievance and settled before it got to the arbitrator! The contract was upheld as legal under the current CBA:

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the National Hockey League Players' Association got their way over the NHL in the matter over 28-year-old rookie defenceman Jonas Frogren.

The league wanted the Leafs to sign Frogren to an entry-level deal. But the NHLPA and the Leafs contended that he should not be subjected to the restrictions of an entry-level pact.

Prior to a hearing on Thursday the two sides settled and agreed that Frogren would continue playing under the two-year, $2.13-million (all currency U.S.) deal he signed in the summer. The Swede's contract includes a $755,000 signing bonus and salaries of $475,000 this season and $900,000 in 2009-10.

- Tim Wharnsby

David Johnson took a look at some of the other issues surrounding the deal in the summer. What seems to have upset the league seems to be that the Leafs not only found a way to get Frogren the money to buy out his contract (teams cannot do it) but they also made a deal with a European team that isn't covered by the IIHF transfer agreement. The NHL clearly was not happy with this as it prevented them from squeezing countries into a transfer agreement. Damn Cliff Fletcher for trying his best to get the Leafs an advantage through legal means.

But Cliff Fletcher wasn't the last GM to try to use the Leafs' financial resources to get the team an advantage through the reules. At the trade deadline Brian Burke made an interesting trade with the Lightning that earned the Leafs a 4th round draft pick. Mirtle looked at the revenue sharing implications for the deal but essential the worry was that the Leafs were buying a draft pick.

*The NHL should examine any future Tampa Bay Lightning/Toronto Maple Leaf dealings very closely. The "trade" in which the Leafs acquired an injured Olaf Kolzig, Jamie Heward - who may well currently be in a different dimension -, a "prospect" who was drafted five years ago, is 23 and can’t stay healthy and a fourth round pick in exchange for Richard Petiot is too bizarre for words.. Mirtle priced this as costing the Leafs about $600K. If you accept that a fourth round pick isn’t worth $600K and that Burke isn’t that dumb, you’re left to wonder what his angle is on this.

- MC79Hockey

Here's what Petiot has done so far for the Lightning: 

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Richard Petiot 11 0 3 3 5 21 0 0 0 0 10 0.0

It sure looks like he is an NHLer and that the Leafs were amply rewarded with a fourth round draft pick. The rest just seems to be a favour for the Lightning that the league might appreciate. Better to have the Lightning receiving revenue sharing and not collapsing then missing the mark and getting into financial help. How many teams can Bettman prop up financially on his own?

So the Leafs made two moves well within the rules and are now being punished for their creativity. If these deals were against the rules then here are two questions to ponder:

  1. Why did the NHL loses the Frogren grievance in November?
  2. Why didn't the NHL cancel the Leafs-Lightning trade when it was sent for approval to the league? 

Mc79 thinks that this is karmic payback but in reality the NHL has just decided that the Leafs are too clever for them. They stripped the Leafs of their fourth round draft pick (while conveniently allowing the rest of the trade to go through so that the Lightning qualify for revenue sharing!) and have punished them for a deal that was ruled legal and a buyout that is not explicitly prohibited under the current CBA (teams cannot directly buyout contracts but the Leafs just gave Frogren a whack of cash). Essentially, two good moves are being wiped out because the league hates creativity. Total horseshit. What does Burke think?

''The Toronto Maple Leafs acknowledge and apologize for the error of judgement,'' Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said in a statement. ''The club accepts the punishment handed down by the league and will not be commenting further on the matter.''

I defy you to read that and not hear the clenched teeth. Favouritism? Sure, for the anti-Leafs.

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