July 14 2016 07:17AM
Matt Martin's contract with the Leafs seems to be one of the most divisive additions the team has made in the post-Nonis era. Many fans are excited about a player Mike Babcock described as "a real good skater, real good forechecker." Babcock added that he sees Martin as a player who will "keep the flies off our team and give us a presence out there." The Leafs Nation's own Jess Pincente reflected the other side when she described the signing as "questionable" and "somewhat hard to justify."
Whatever the case, the Leafs have Martin on a 4-year contract now, so it's worth trying to figure out what exactly they can expect to get for $2.5 million per season. Some people, like Babcock, see Martin as bringing qualities in terms of his personality and style of play that will help the Leafs' younger players adjust to and excel in the National Hockey League. I'll leave that kind of analysis to others. What I'm going to take a look at here is how Matt Martin stacks up statistically. In particular, I'll look at him from three angles: offensive production, puck possession, and neutral zone play.
July 05 2016 07:01AM
One common refrain among hockey fans is that there's no need to worry about overpaying players, as long as you don't overpay them by too much. It's the big mistakes that ruin a team, according to this line of thinking, things like signing David Clarkson to a nearly $37 million contract. Smaller mistakes, then, aren't worth fretting about, so long as you don't make any major blunders alongside them.
There is a level on which this sentiment is true. Overpaying a single player by, say, $1M a year isn't going to be the difference between missing the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup. No team, after all, is perfectly efficient in how they use their salary cap space. If a hockey team slightly overpays one player and never squanders money elsewhere in the lineup, there's not much to worry about.
The problem is that teams almost never make one mistake and then stop. Overpayments and wasted money will typically show up in a number of places in terms of how teams allocate their salary cap room, and over time those overpayments do add up, and they can cause real problems. Let's take a look at some of the ways that the Leafs are currently using their cap space as a demonstration.
June 28 2016 06:23AM
When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Frederik Andersen to a five-year contract with a $5 million cap hit, they made a pretty bold statement. It's clear that they see Andersen as a goalie who will backstop the franchise to success over a long period of time, not as merely a stop-gap. A five-year contract for a goalie is a major gamble. If you sign a winger to a big deal and it doesn't work out, you can put him on the 3rd line and shelter him from difficult competition in order to try to salvage some value from the contract. On the other hand, if a goalie is signed to a hefty contract that doesn't work out, you're trapped. Look at Detroit's situation with Jimmy Howard or Dallas's with Kari Lehtonen as examples.
It's clear that the Leafs think Andersen will be able to keep up a high level of play over the long haul. The key question is: are they right?
June 20 2016 07:29AM
One area where the Leafs have been very successful over the past two seasons is in signing undervalued veterans to short-term contracts, then trading them for draft picks or prospects at the trade deadline. For a team that badly needed to stock the cupboard with some prospects, it was a smart way to go about building future value off the back of short-term investments. Toronto is still firmly in rebuild mode, having finished last in the NHL this season, so they may decide to go that route again, building up value and then moving players at the deadline for futures.
But even if they aren't looking to flip veterans at the deadline any more, finding players who are under-priced by the market is still an important tactic for teams to pursue in a league with a hard salary cap like the NHL has. In a sense, the NHL has become an efficiency competition, so adding players who provide value on-ice above what they're being paid is wise for contenders and rebuilding teams alike.
June 14 2016 07:00AM
The Toronto Maple Leafs finished the 2015-16 NHL season without a clear #1 goalie in the organisation. Over the past few years, Jonathan Bernier has failed to live up to the lofty expectations set for him by the management team that acquired him, while James Reimer was traded to San Jose for a draft pick. Garret Sparks put up impressive numbers in the AHL, but wasn't able to replicate that success in his first major NHL stint. So it seems quite likely that the Leafs are going to look outside the organisation for at least one NHL goalie this summer.
Over the weekend, Jeff Veillette argued that the Leafs should just run Jonathan Bernier again next season, and it wasn't that long ago that I also wrote about how Bernier could still be an NHL starter. That's certainly one option. But if the Leafs do look to bring another goalie in, who might they target?