September 25 2012 03:03PM
Today I went and picked up Jonathan Gatehouse's new book The Instigator that chronicles Gary Bettman's rise as the most powerful man in hockey. Yet to make my way through it, but I found an interesting passage pertaining to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
We knew that Toronto made an hour-long pitch to Brad Richards, the headline free agent of the 2011 class, but there's a section in this book, looking at Richards' courting, that goes slightly more into detail:
Newport Sports may be the biggest agency in the NHL, but its offices are decidedly down-market, located in an aging, half-vacant office tower across the street from a shopping mall near Toronto's airport. Only July 1, 2011, however, the were the official centre of the hockey universe. The satellite trucks were already parked outside when Richards arrived mid-morning, coffee in hand. [Agent Pat] Morris had been at work since 8 A.M., taking reservations.
The first team to make their pitch—at the strike of noon—was the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vice-president of hockey operations Dave Nonis, Claude Loiselle, the assistant GM, and special adviser Cliff Fletcher had brought an iPad with a video message from team president Brian Burke, who was visiting Canadian troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan. And despite the camouflag and desert backdrop, the content was all hockey. The Leafs, who hadn't made the playoffs since 2004, were on the upswing, posting one of the leagu'es best records in the second half of the 2010-11 season. Goalie James Reimer looked like an emerging star. And Phil Kessel was a premium sniper, just begging for a set-up man. In Toronto, Richards would be king—on and off the ice. The one hitch was something Burke had been very open about—he wasn't willing to entertain any deal longer than six years.
And right at the end, I kid you not, Pat Morris receives a phone call from Calgary's Jay Feaster, that is described as "unexpected".
Richards is quite open earlier in the chapter about discussing how he wanted to be one of hockey's highest-paid players, so Burke's six-year max contract was probably the big issue there. We can look at the deal Richards accepted and work our way back to what Burke was willing to offer.
I don't think that Burke would have been serious about getting an opening day pitch to Richards if he wasn't serious, or aware that Richards, coming off a 28-goal, 77-point season in 72 games, wouldn't be looking to be one of hockey's highest paid players. Let's take whatever information we can decipher from Capgeek, and simply end the Leafs' offer at six seasons:
And there you see the benefits of front-loading the deal. The extra years tagged at the end, that Burke wasn't willing to offer, save nearly $3M worth of cap space which is not an insignificant amount.
I'm not big on Brad Richards, and I don't think Leaf Nation ought to be entirely displeased that New York has this contract and not the Leafs. He's a very good playmaker and powerplay threat no doubt, but he's never cracked 30 goals and his possession numbers aren't dominant. I think he's a player who got a good contract off of reputation more than anything else.
Other Leafs news
Here's your Toronto KHL news. First compiled by the guys over at Maple Leafs Hot Stove, Nik Kulemin scored his first KHL goal last night, the 1-0 goal for Mettallurg in their 7-2 beatdown of Nail Yakupov's Neftekhimik:
This is a very good play for Evgeni Malkin, who is a pretty good hockey player.
Elsewise in that post, they write about the confirmation that Mikhail Grabovski has indeed signed with CSKA Moscow, or "Red Army", as our friend Andrey speculated he might last week.
Back in Southern Ontario, the Toronto Marlies released their training camp roster. I've bolded the notable names:
Forwards: Spencer Abbott, Will Acton, Carter Ashton, Keith Aucoin, Tyler Brenner, Sam Carrick, Joe Colborne, Andrew Crescenzi, Jerry D’Amigo, Nicolas Deschamps, Jamie Devane, Ryan Hamilton, Adam Hughesman, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Greg McKegg, Brad Ross, Kenny Ryan, Greg Scott and Mike Zigomanis
Defencemen: Jesse Blacker, Mark Fraser, Jake Gardiner, Ryan Grimshaw, Simon Gysbers, Korbinian Holzer, Mike Kostka, Paul Ranger, Corey Syvret and Dylan Yeo
Goaltenders: Andrew Engelage, Mark Owuya, Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens
So apparently Scrivens will be AHL-eligible this season. James Mirtle explains why, although the whole process is sort of fuzzy. Let's just be happy that Scrivens will get to develop at a reasonable pace until the season starts.
The Leafs were able to avoid the waiver process with Ben Scrivens by giving him an AHL deal and using the lockout exception that's in place.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) September 25, 2012
A name you might want to familiarize yourselves with is Brad Ross. He's a graduate of the WHL this season, scoring 42 goals in Portland playing just 68 games last season. More than his skills around the net, he can also be a bit of a pest and a dirtbag, skirting the limits of acceptable competition. He's not the biggest guy, 6'1", 183, but he was a big part in Portland's run to the WHL Championship Series last year. Other than the obvious names, I think Ross is the one with the most realistic NHL shot, just because he can fill that two-way third-and-fourth line pest role, and maybe pop in 10 goals in his spare time.