Leafs' July 1st Wrap Up

Bruce Bennett

Our thoughts on how the Leafs did on day one of free agency.

For many Leafs fans the day started out on a high note with Dave Bolland accepting an enormous $5.5M x 5 year deal from the Florida Panthers. While Bolland could have been a useful player he almost certainly can't live up to a $5.5M salary to say nothing of his injury risk.

That said we can't evaluate Nonis' work without realizing he likely tried to give Bolland the same term at $5M, and that he was saved from a second Clarkson deal only by the stupidity of Dale Tallon which doesn't seem like something to immediately celebrate.

Robidas

The Leafs then added Stephane Robidasdiscussed more in depth here, a 37 year old who broke his leg twice last season and somehow got a three year deal from the Leafs. While Robidas might be a useful player there are an awful lot of question marks surrounding any player that old with a skating injury. One only needs to think back to John-Michael Liles getting a four year deal fresh off a concussion to wonder how poorly a Robidas deal could turn out. The upside is that we get a second pairing D man for $3M, the downside is that he'll chew up cap space via LTIR for a long time. (Clark Aitken is writing a primer on LTIR to answer some of your questions, it'll be up soon, but the short story is it's not a magic bullet that gives you back cap space for a hurt player.)

Komarov

After Robidas the Leafs re-acquired fan favorite Leo Komarov. He's a fun guy to watch play. He's areal asshole on the ice (and I mean that solely as a compliment) and seems to have a good sense of humor along with an ability to get under people's skin. It's really not a secret why so many people like him. Unfortunately for us, Nonis signed him to a $2.95M for 4 year deal and both of those numbers hurt.

It's a bad idea to give term to a 4th liner: if he's a 4th liner today there's no guarantee he won't be "not an NHLer" soon. There aren't a lot of players who occupy the 4th line long term, which makes sense if you think about it. The average NHL player's career is around two seasons (data and some interesting reading here), and that's about how long I'd sign a 4th liner I was really interested in.

Frattin

The Leafs traded Jerry D'Amigo and a conditional 7th to Columbus for previous Leaf Matt Frattin, and I think this sums things up pretty well:

Frattin_medium

I don't think much of Frattin as a player, though he signed a pretty team friendly two year deal worth $800k per.

What They Lost

In today's free agency period the Leafs didn't just gain players, they lost some as well. Mason Raymond (19G 25A 44pts on the third line last year) signed in Calgary for $9.5M over 3 years. He was a fantastic bargain last year and it's hard to understand why Nonis would be willing to pay about that much for Komarov but not for Raymond.

The Leafs, also, obviously lost Bolland and while it's great that we don't have his $5.5M cap hit around for far too long someone does need to show up and play his minutes. The Leafs' depth at C right now is Bozak - Kadri - Holland - ???, and that's something that's going to have to be addressed.

Moreover, while there's talk of moving Dion Phaneuf to the left side currently the Leafs have 4 RD: Phaneuf, Roman Polak, Robidas and Cody Franson. Franson is an RFA and it'll be interesting to see if the Leafs ship him out. I'm neutral-ish on the Robidas deal, but if it's a choice of Robidas over Franson then that deal looks pretty bad to me.

Lastly there's the still unsigned Nikolai Kulemin. It seems like he's not coming back, but again using Komarov's deal as a comparable I don't think it would have taken much more to sign Kulemin. It's hard to justify Komarov's move as smart when we'll lose a 2nd line / 3rd line tweener to bring in a 4th liner we hope can jump up to the third.

If Kulemin leaves combined with Raymond the Leafs have lost an awful lot of goal scoring and despite their reputation were only 14th in the league in goals for last season. The team continues to move in the wrong direction and one wonders if the goaltending doesn't bail the team out like it did last season what a mediocre offense and bad defense with historically bad possession stats looks like.

Summary

Overall I'm not sure this was a great day for the Leafs. Sure they dodged some apocalyptic contracts, but if they want to become a good team they'll need to do more than that. The Leafs have a depleted farm system and need a lot of help on the parent club. At some point someone will need to come in and start making good bets based on smart decisions, because right now Leafs fans at large are excited because Dave Nonis treaded water today.

That's not going to cut it. This team is mired in mediocrity because its management is incapable of making smart decisions, and today we've moved no closer to becoming a good team. If you're LA or Chicago you can tread water on July 1st (though Chicago added Brad Richards for $2M on a 1 year deal) but the Leafs can't afford to be "good enough".

The climb to respectability for this franchise will be a long and arduous one, and it won't happen simply by avoiding the worst deals in the league.

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