The Maple Leafs are committing five more years to Joffrey Lupul. They are committing to providing him the opportunities and linemates commensurate with a top six forward for at least a couple of seasons while the cap increases at which point if he is sliding down the depth chart then his cap hit won't have as much of an impact. There is an aspect of 'the devil you know' to the deal as, for at least 95 games, Lupul has show great chemistry with Phil Kessel. Keep in mind that before this year Kessel's wingmates included Joey Crabb so while there are a number of possible UFA wingers theoretically on the market this summer, replacing Lupul is easier said than done. That is actually an awful group. So unless the plan is to switch Corey Perry to the right wing or acquire the winger by trade, the market isn't deep at all.
So there were two competing views that I wanted to highlight because I think that they show why opinions are so divided. First up, Cam Charron who brings us his view on the signing that focuses on three aspects:
- Injury history - The back is definitely a concern but the rest don't seem chronic yet. There is certainly a risk but then again he could go out and get his bell rung on any shift.
- Individual Points Percentage - This is a number that should be checked for outliers. The gamble is then that Lupul has established a new standard for himself. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? Generally not at this advanced age
- Corsi Impact on Kessel - When Lupul and Kessel play together, they get outshot much more than when Kessel plays with other players. This is why in my original post I suggested that it was now even more important to find a defensive responsible centre for the dynamic duo.
And in the other corner, is David Johnson of Hockey Analysis who, takes a look at the Lupul signing and makes some good points:
- This could have been more expensive - That UFA list is thin and the trade market is expensive and unpredictable. If the Leafs waited too long they could have been negotiating with a guy with a lot of leverage.
- Elite production - The table in his post has Lupul in pretty heady company. It's based on even strength play that has been adjusted for zone starts and he was 13th in the NHL
last yearover the past five seasons.
- Continued Opportunity - Joffrey Lupul's increase in production can be explained largely by his increased opportunity and ice-time. If that continues then he can be expected to continue to put up points.
He also has a longer post that focuses on his goals-based analysis (as opposed to shots-based analysis which is what Cam, Zona, Gabe, etc do) that shows that Lupul has a positive impact on his linemates.
Ultimately, how this deal will be judged will depend on the quality of the job that Nonis does improving the Leafs around Lupul as well as whether he continues to have the opportunity and linemates that put him in a position to succeed. If, after a year or two Lupul finds himself on the second or third line then it's not likely we'll look at the deal as being worthwhile. However, there were a lot of factors in place that make this a tough deal to make. Would it have been better to take more time to see how well he had recovered from surgery? Sure, but the risk is that he recovered perfectly, tears up the league, and is suddenly the best UFA left winger on the market. At worst, I don't think that this deal will ever be an anchor but like every deal there are risks. It's now up to Nonis to mitigate them.