James Mirtle reported today that the Toronto Maple Leafs have avoided arbitration with Clark MacArthur, instead signing him to a two-year deal worth $6.5 million in total.
It’s a good thing too, because an arbiter was likely to side with MacArthur, who had an excellent season in the white and blue last year. Grabbed for pennies on the dollar (ironically, when the Thrashers walked away from him after he won an arbitration award they didn’t like) MacArthur combined with the emergent Mikhail Grabvoski to form what was the Leafs most potent line at even strength.
His 21-goals and 62-point season was good on the surface, but the real impressive part was MacArthur’s underlying numbers: his possession rate of +8.54 corsi/60 was good for second on the team behind Grabvoski. What’s more impressive is the Grabovski line faced tougher circumstances than Phil Kessel (better opposition, more defensive zone starts) and had superior out-shooting numbers.
As such, while most fans and pundits identify Kessel + linemates as the Leafs "first line", the truth is Grabvoski and MacArthur may form the back-bone of a true heavy-lifting trio up front going forward, allowing Kessel and company to take on the lesser lights. A similar arrangement exists in Vancouver, where the Sedins are reserved for a pure offensive role while guys like Kesler and Malholtra see the tougher minutes.
The price of $3.25M per year seems steep given MacArthur’s somewhat limited resume, but will be more than a value signing if he and Grabovski can continue to do such high quality work at even strength. Compared to the price of a player like Ville Leino ($4.5M/year) – who was one of the most sheltered forwards in the league last year – MacArthur’s contract is a bargain.