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2009 Free Agency: Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Francois Beauchemin

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Yesterday Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs continued his assault on unrestricted free agent defencemen by signing sought-after Francois Beauchemin to a three year, $11.4M contract. What does Beauchemin bring to the table? Aside from being one of the most likely players to snuff out the Lollipop Guild he brings one bionic knee (worked pretty well for Antropov) and some pretty good defensive numbers. Behind the Net is the source of these numbers and you can definitely dig through the pile for some interesting figures. I've used the 2007-2008 season as a comparison because it was the last complete season that Beauchemin played:

  • Here's how Beauchemin ranked among defencemen that played at least 15 minutes a game at even strength.
  • At even strength he had a better Corsi Number than Pronger. That looks at how many shots are directed at your opponent's net less those aimed at your own.
  • He's likely not the answer on the PP. He played the fifth most minutes but the powerplay was better without him. Of course with Kaberle putting one-timers on a platter for him....
  • He played the second most PK minutes that season while the Ducks had the 12th best PK. They also led the league in times short-handed. What does that mean? Beauchemin is used to dealing with the fallout from truculence.
  • Here's a look at Beauchemin's contract comparables according to cap hit. Out of those I kind of identified the following as similar players. Bear in mind that while I do follow a lot of hockey I don't watch thousands of games so if you disagree let me know why: Paul Martin, Mike Commodore, Brooks Orpik, Brad Stuart, Kevin Bieksa, and Barret Jackman.

But what do numbers really tell us? A lot? Yeah, as much as luddites and sportswriters might want to suggest that they have no place in sports they do provide at least one angle. Of course, there's something to be said for allying statistical analysis with dispassionate observation. That's why I asked the awesomely named Earl Sleek from the Battle of California to provide some background on Beauchemin. After the jump because he has a lot to say.

Here's Earl Sleek's take on Beauchemin (for what it's worth keep in mind that he also took RudyKelly on as a contributor):

Mostly, I refer to Beauchemin as "Frenchie", even though I've heard he despises that name -- I'm sort of a jerk about stuff like that. He's been fantastic for the Ducks, of course, but for a lot of his Anaheim tenure it was with Scotty Niedermayer at his back, which enhanced his abilities somewhat. I estimate that over the course of his Anaheim career, Frenchie had to go back and retrieve 1,000 fewer pucks than he would have had to with a normal-speed defensive partner, and it is worth noting that Beauchemin's scoring rates during Niedermayer's "retirement" were terrible. Also is the matter of Frenchie's historical salary -- he was the steal of the century at half-a-million bucks when Burke got him in the Fedorov trade, and even at his next conract, $1.65M was a steal.

I'm not exactly sure how he'll fare in Toronto's system -- really, it's tough to translate how he did on a Niedermayer-and-Pronger blueline to how he'll do on a blueline without either. But as a depth guy (2nd pairing, 2nd PP, 2nd PK) with somebody watching his back -- Frenchie is fantastic. He can shoot decently, hit just fine -- other than possibly footspeed, there's no glaring weakness in his game. He's tough, too (only misssed one game when he broke his jaw in the '07 playoffs, and like Forsberg, is playing without a spleen).

And I'll let you in on a little secret. You may hardly ever get to see it, but Frenchie is quite a surprisingly awesome fighter. He normally leaves that stuff to his teammates, but on the odd occasion when he does drop the gloves, watch out. Nobody seems prepared for how fast his punches land -- in the 2006 playoffs, he pummelled Jarome Iginla, and Iggy wasn't the same in the series afterwards. Last playoffs he broke Kopecky's face, and Kopecky wasn't even in the series after that.

The Ducks will certainly miss Beauchemin's minutes -- he ate a ton of them -- but we're tightening our belts, and Frenchie is certainly welcome to earn his raise elsewhere. You guys will probably enjoy him (unless you're a Francophobe), but I do have to note that in less than the span of a season, Toronto has nabbed Brian Burke, Dave Nonis, Francois Allaire, Brad May, and Francois Beauchemin from the Ducks.

When can we start talking about that inevitable J.S. Giguere trade? :)

You can get a sense of what Burke saw in Beauchemin during the second half of his press conference from today that can be found below. He notes that he thinks that Francois can move the puck on his own although if Kaberle is still around I am guessing that they'll be pair together since that's the closest to Niedermayer the Leafs have on their roster.

And here's the demoliton of Kopecky:

I think that Beauchemin will fit in just fine with the Burkian Leafs.