The Toronto Maple Leafs, for reasons known only to them, have signed free agent defenceman Brett Lebda formerly of the 2008 Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings to a two year, $2.9M contract. The assumption, and please God the right conclusion, is that this signing is a precursor to a trade of Tomas Kaberle and the purging by any means necessary of Jeff Finger from the Leafs' blue line. The short-term nature of the deal is good as it gives prospects like Keith Aulie, Korbinian Holzer, Juraj Mikus, and Simon Gysbers another year on the Marlies to develop. Once Finger and Kaberle have been dealt with that will allow whichever kid is playing the best to come up and fill in for injuries or to act as the seventh defenceman.
Thankfully, that's how Lyle Richardson reads it:
Lebda's signing will only ramp up speculation the Leafs are closing in on a trade of Kaberle. It's also possible however Lebda could Finger's replacement, as it's speculated the Leafs could demote him to clear his $3.5 million salary from their cap space next season.
After a little thought, as long as the other two moves are made I'll understand the logic. It's similar to the Kubina trade last season which was a precursor to signing Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek. The drawback, as with the Colby Armstrong signing, is that it still takes away from the Leafs' flexibility. They now have $4.5M less that they can use towards addressing the gap in the top six forwards and it's a handicap that did not need to be taken on at this time. I feel like the timing of the deal is a big factor. If Burke had taken some decisive action on Jeff Finger (could he help a team get to the salary floor?) or had consumated a deal for Tomas Kaberle (seriously, he can't keep him now can he?) then I feel the reaction would be if not different then certainly much more tempered. After the jump, more on Brett Lebda.
#22 / Defenseman / Toronto Maple Leafs
Jan 15, 1982
Years in the NHL: 5
Became a Leaf: Today
Contract Status: In year 1 of a two year deal; $1.45M cap hit
The price tag is a head scratcher since Lebda was only making $650K a year on his last deal when his highets point total was 18 and last year he racked up 8. The bright side is that if one of the kids proves that he deserves to be in the NHL then there will only be $1.45M in the pressbox instead of $3.5M. This means that the Leafs have $27.775M tied up on the blueline...for now.
So what does $1.45M buy the Leafs?
His QCOMP was -0.105 which was among the worst in the league and his QTEAM was -0.299 which was also among the worst in the league. His Corsi ratings aren't good but that's to be expected considering the role he was playing. He started 56% of his shifts in the offensive zone so he was also getting shielded a lot. His PDO was .998 so he wasn't get burned or boosted by unsustainable goaltending or shooting percentage. He is basically a replacement-level player as his GVT is 0.9. He doesn't kill penalties and won't with Beauchemin, Phaneuf, Schenn, and Komisarek drawing those minutes and he doesn't play the powerplay.
Basically, he's a 6/7th defenceman albeit a well-renumerated one. It's an overpay no doubt and while people can try to say it's just 2% of the cap the reality is that every dollar that is overpaid adds up until eventually it leads to a cap penalty. The one bright side is that at least the shape of the idea was good. Lebda is a veteran defenceman that can keep the kids shielded. One main thing I'd point out is that it's clear that this summer is still very much a work in progress. While the first two signings have been head scratchers the trade for Versteeg was a good one. As such, before laughably suggesting that it's time for Burke to be fired (hint: Ron Wilson won't get canned this summer either) I think we need to see where the rest o fthis summer goes before grading the summer beyond an 'incomplete'.
What Twitter Had To Say
Dave Poulin (asst GM, Lebda's coach at ND): "He's a very mobile puck-moving D who will complement the group that we have very well."
Jesus Toronto. Don't you have Center Ice?
Brent Lebda, never heard of him. Scoring winger with size right?
Brett Lebda has a stack of money that's taller than Brett Lebda.
The Lebda signing will make much more sense once Kaberle has been traded for a forward and Finger has been sent to the Marlies
Thank you Brett Lebda for leaving Detroit #redwings. Don't let the door hit your in the ass on your way out.
When a no-name defenceman like Brett Lebda is the 2nd most trending topic in Canada that can only mean one thing, he was signed by the Leafs
Here's a video of the newest Leaf. Funny story, before I read about the signing, I went to the Leafs website and was absolutely baffled as to why there was a Lebda video. I thought it was a glitch. In some ways, it is.