Mason Raymond Joins Leafs on PTO

Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
September 08 2013 08:03PM

Do you have a player that you know is far from a superstar, probably won't hit his originally thought potential, and might even make too much money for what he contributes to his team, but you're a massive fan despite all rational thought? The Canucks are my "second team". They have been almost as long as the Leafs have been my first (thanks, Pavel Bure). Mason Raymond, to me, is "that player".

As such, I'm more than happy to see that he will be reporting to Leafs training camp as part of a Professional Tryout. Here's what you should know... 

After scoring 25 goals and 28 assists on the last year of his entry level contract in 2009/10, Raymond has not achieved the same results since, falling to 39 and 20 points in the seasons following. This wouldn't be so bad, if the team wasn't paying him $2.55 million for the efforts, the result of an arbitration case. Despite his (relatively) bloated salary, the Canucks wanted to retained his rights, so they filed for arbitration on him. A pre-hearing settlement brought the figure down to 2.275 million, and Raymond did have an improved year, with 10 goals and 12 assists in 46 games, but it wasn't enough to convince the Canucks to have him in their long term plans.

You can't really blame them, either. Vancouver has recommitted to Roberto Luongo, has four defencemen making $4.5 million or more, and nearly $34 million committed to forwards. Many teams like having cap room buffers (Leafs management slowly walks out the door), and re-investing in the 27 year old Raymond when the team now has just $2.2 million in cap space would not be a wise move.

The Leafs, on the other hand, may be able to use Raymond's situation to their advantage. A similar situation was had in 2010 with Clarke MacArthur, who the Leafs signed for just 1.1 million on August 28th, 2010 after he was unable to find a team to make a significant investment in him. MacArthur's situation was a bit different, as the Atlanta Thrashers walked away from an arbitration ruling, but it's another case of a potential low-budget, late offseason pickup of a player who's dollar figures have left him out of favour.

While not the star many thought he could become with his dazzling top speed and acceleration, Raymond still had a decent offensive year last year. Playing with Jannik Hansen and Jordan Schroeder as his primary linemates, Raymond put up 1.53 points per 60 minutes (5 on 5). By comparison, Toronto's own Tyler Bozak (1.51 with Phil Kessel and James Van Riemsdyk) and David Clarkson (1.33 with Patrick Elias and Travis Zajac) weren't as efficient.

Some of the more "advanced" stats aren't so kind to him. His Corsi relative to the quality of his competition is just barely positive (middle ground on the Canucks), his individual PDO is a bit on the lucky side this year (1016, with 1000 being neutral), and he starts more shifts in the offensive zone (56.5%) than he finishes (48.3). These are the type of numbers that would keep me from committing any significant cash or term too, but make a tryout at least sensible.

An issue, of course, is the Leafs current cap situation makes this a move out of left field. In case you've forgotten, the blue and white currenly have $4.9 million dollars remaining to sign Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson. That, as you may know, is not a lot of money. It becomes $6.1 million if you send down Trevor Smith and Korbinian Holzer (very likely), but even if you were going to get the dynamic RFA duo to sign at under market value, Raymond needs to get paid something.

What that something is? Who knows. It won't be last years salary. Maybe Dave Nonis, Raymond's original GM, can convince him to sign on a discount as a favour to both the Leafs and himself, but you're still probably looking in the range of $1-1.5 million.

With this considered, I see two possibilities. One - there's a trade coming at some point. Maybe it's one of the RFA's. Maybe management thinks there's still a suitor yet for John-Michael Liles (not holding my breath). Maybe Nikolai Kulemin's $2.8 million price tag is seen as unsuitable for the third line, but suitable for another team. Whoever it is, a contract offloaded would make room for Kadri, Franson, and Raymond.

The other? It could just be a tryout. Maybe it's Nonis helping out his old player by showing other teams he's capable. Maybe it's them trying to find a speed skater that falls a lot (except less diving, more actual loss of balance) like Kadri to fill the void during his hold out. Who knows.

The basic point here is that Mason Raymond is a pretty decent hockey player who may be available on a bargain, because he spent some time being far from that. I wouldn't expect a ton from him, but he can still contribute. Plus he skates circles around his competition. I'm excited to see a player I've always liked wearing the blue and white, though it remains to be seen how long that will last.

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I bring news about the Toronto Marlies, opinions about the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a bunch of ridiculous thoughts about everything else.
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#1 Chris
September 09 2013, 04:08AM
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The last comment is ridiculous! Raymond from a winning tradition? What has Vancouver won? They are the true under achievers in the past 5 seasons.. Taking the sting away from losing frattin for Bernier... Really? Frattin is a career 3rd liner, Bernier has potential to,be the best goalie we have had since cujo. I like the idea that we could get Raymond at a great deal but where do you come up with these comments?

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#2 esoterik
September 09 2013, 02:13AM
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I believe there is a market for Liles Now with Burke in Calgary and them desperately in need of NHL caliber players. As well Edmonton could use Liles. My understanding of the Leafs plan is to force Franson and kadri to sign cheap contracts as they have no leverage because they are RFA's. Then turn around and deal Liles after training camp -when some teams will realize their lack of depth at defense. This will free up some cap space to pick up a player at the trade deadline for a playoff push or to replace any wholes created in the roster because of poor play or injury. I really like the pickup of Raymond as they are picking up another player from a team with a winning tradition. With Clarkson, Bolland and now Raymond the Leafs have added a lot of playoff games played by players in a Leaf jersey. As Well the acquisition of Raymond takes the sting out of losing Matt Frattin in the Bernier trade.

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#3 Ammar Hussain
September 08 2013, 08:16PM
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If we manage to sign Kadri, Franson and Raymond I will instantly have more faith in our upcoming season and David Nonis. And I'm sure a lot more Leafs fan would follow

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#4 rw970
September 08 2013, 10:08PM
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What's most frustrating is that there are so many useful bargain-priced NHL-quality players available this summer, which would be perfect for filling out the bottom half of a roster on the cheap, but are currently beyond our means because of Nonis' misadventures.

Good chance that guys like Raymond, Gilbert, and Hainsey, each of whom would probably be upgrades on Leafs roster players, will end up signing in Europe. It's entirely possible that each of those players would be willing to sign for less than $1MM each. We could have all of Mason Raymond, Tom Gilbert, and Ron Hainsey for less than one Bozak, in other words.

Oh well. It's not as if Raymond would be able to beat out McLaren and Orr, whose hockey-playing talents are so apparent that a PTO would only be wasted on them.

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#5 MaxPower417
September 08 2013, 08:58PM
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I'm also a Raymond fan and agree with Ammar, if Nonis turns around and unloads Liles then signs Franson, Kadri and Raymond to good value deals then this offseason just got a lot better. You know...as long as I ignore Bozak's contract and pretend Clarkson is immune to aging.

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#6 whichonespink
September 09 2013, 04:34AM
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Edmonton doesn't have the cap space to take on Liles. They have 1.3. They might take on Holzer and the connection with Eakins might make that happen. Calgary has the space and the need for D men, but do they want a 33 yr old D for 3.8 on a rebuilding team. There are a few teams that have only so so bluelines, NJ, Pitt,Buff,Det,who could use a vet puck mover, but don't have the space. There are a few more that might take Liles if another prospect is added, in exchange for another prospect/low pick, teams like, Car,Col,Isles, Ott is also a possibility but only if they can grab him off waivers. The sad fact is there is not many teams that can absorb 3.8 ,mil or even 2.8 if we retain a mil. It may be that Nonnis knows that other GM's will take Liles if he goes on waivers, i'm not sure when that begins? Is it Wed when camps open or when the rosters have to be set Oct 2-3rd? If this is true and he's just holding out hoping for a trade, then that would explain why he's "confident" to get the RFA's signed. I say Ramond signs for around 1 mil, maybe 925k, so he can be buried if it doesn't work out. When you at the PTO point of your career, it's pay cut time. You take the 900k and hope you can prove something for next year or for another team. There maybe also be something bigger brewing in the background, cough/Phaneuf, but that is in the unlikely category.

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#7 WesternDP
September 09 2013, 10:09AM
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@Yushkevich

I live in Winnipeg and have seen lots of Hainsey. Most Jets fans don't want Hainsey back and aren't sure why the people in Toronto keep talking about him. It makes people in Winnipeg giggle.

I think Paul Ranger has a higher upside.

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#8 WesternDP
September 09 2013, 10:33AM
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If you could get Raymond on a one way contract for about $925,000 he could be very useful. A guarenteed $925,000 no matter where Raymond plays, might even look good to him.

You could put him on the Marlies for a bit of veteran leadership and have a useful call up if there are injuries.

If Kadri holds out, Bozak, Bolland, McClement and Colborne are your centers and Raymond takes a Colborne's third line spot on the wing.

If Kadri and Franson sign, then you can push down Liles and bring up Raymond or have Liles up the Leafs with Raymond on the Marlies depending on your need.

Perhaps Liles even gets traded if a team runs into injury problem and Raymond becomes your full time 13th forward.

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#9 Ashley
September 08 2013, 09:07PM
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Don't forget that part of Raymond's drop in numbers can be attributed to the broken back that happened in the SCF with Boston. I wouldn't be surprised if he continued to improve.

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#10 Yushkevich
September 09 2013, 07:49AM
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Although unfortunately an admitted 'second team' Canucks fan as well (blame my parents) I was surprised by the PTO especially given Hainsey's status. Its no secret that the Leafs defensive core is still a work in progress and didn't we already have a guy like Raymond, named Lombardi?

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#11 Craig
September 09 2013, 09:23AM
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@Chris

I understand your angle, but I think your being overly dramatic in regards to Vancouver. Back to back president trophy, going to game 7 of Stanley Cup finals? By the logic above, unless you win the cup you have no winning tradition? So that's just about every NHL team....

I think the point of the experience those players bring is more than valid, regardless of the 'playoff choking' label media and fans have plastered on the team.

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#12 Terry McRae
September 09 2013, 03:12PM
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The Canucks are my favourite team and Mason Raymond is my favourite player . . . love his speed, skills, determination, versatility (he can play the PP and PK) and personality . . . with the right people he can replicate his 2009-10 season, especially now with the extra incentive to prove he's worth $2.5 million (after this year) . . . if Leaf fans want to feel good about this move, got to YouTube and watch some of his goals . . . pretty to watch . . . here's predicting he'll start on the third line and move his way up.

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#13 Lemming
September 09 2013, 07:16PM
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A former Canuck goes to the Leafs on a PTO and suddenly a bunch of people come out of the woodwork proclaiming the Canucks as their "2nd team" or whatever? You were probably all the same people who thought Vancouver was the team of pure evil when they went to the finals a few years ago.

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#14 Billy
September 10 2013, 09:15AM
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Raymond has a great back hand shot

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