Leafs sign Mark Fraser to 1-Year, $1.275 million deal

The Toronto Maple Leafs have locked up Mark Fraser for the 2013-14 season.

Sportsnet 590 the Fan reporter Matt Brown broke the whole morning’s events. Here’s how the deal went down…

First, there was this: 

This made it seem like Fraser’s arbitration hearing could be long and unpleasant. After all, it was just two days ago that Darren Dreger reporter that while Mark Fraser’s camp was asking for $2 million, the Leafs counterted with an offer of just $855,000. I’m not expert negotiator, but I’m assuming asking for more than double what the other party is offering is usually an indicator that things aren’t going so well.

But then this happened… 

A sign that Nonis and Fraser could be reaching an agreement outside of arbitration?

Yes sir! For those of you playing GM at home, here are the defencemen the Leafs have committed to for next season:

  • Dion Phaneuf – $6.5 million, 1 year remaining.
  • John-Michael Liles – $3.875 million, 3 years remaining.
  • Carl Gunnarsson – $3.150 million, 3 years remaining.
  • Mark Fraser – $1.275 million, 1 year remaining.
  • Jake Gardiner – $1,1116,667 million cap hit in the final year of his Entry Level Contract.
  • Paul Ranger – $1 million, 1 year remaining.
  • Korbinian Holzer – $787,5000, 2 years remaining

Let’s also remember that there is the ever-evolving story of Morgan Reilly. It would seem next to impossible for the 19-year-old to make this upcoming season’s Leafs squad unless he proves to be the second coming of Ray Bourque already. Then there’s also defenceman T.J. Brennen whom the Leafs signed this summer, and prospects like Jesse Blacker and Stuart Percy, and more waiting in the wings.

Who’s missing? Oh, that’s right – Cody Franson. Oh, and Nazem Kadri up front.

I certainly won’t criticize the Mark Fraser signing. I know he wasn’t everybody’s favourite,  but I enjoyed the toughness he brought to the Leafs’ back end. Bet you didn’t think you’d hear that from me, did ya?

The more pressing issue is that the Leafs now have just under $5 million to sign both Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson. How are they going to do that? Well, the answer is that they may not have to. Cody Franson has been rumoured to be in trade talks, and at this point, how could he not be?

Two important details on the Fraser deal before you stop reading. First, this update on the gruesome facial injury Fraser suffered during Game 4 against Boston.

And this salary cap information, should the Leafs find themselves in a pinch, which they’re already kind of in.

There aren’t many shoes left to drop, folks. The Leafs must get Franson and Kadri signed, or face the prospect of losing them. Buckle up.

To end on a nicer note than "buckle up," here is an excellent piece on Mark Fraser by Elliotte Friedman from this past season. Difinitely worth a watch.

  • Back in Black

    @ Back in Black

    “Kessel (or some other important forward) missing a week due to a minor injury is an expected problem. It is not a low probability event.”

    You originally said Kessel and Franson at the same time, which is more of a low probability event:

    “Phil Kessel sprains his ankle at the end of training camp and can’t play for a week. Cody Franson bruises his thumb blocking a shot in the first game of the season and can’t hold his stick for four days.”

    If its just an injury to a important forward, then send Liles as the seventh defensmen to the AHL for a cap reduction and bring up a Marlie foward. Thus you are back to 12 forwards an six defensmen, which is fine for a few games. I doubt anybody claims Liles and if they do it solves some problems. When the injury ends, bring Liles back up

    If the injuries go longer there is long tern injury cap relief.

    You see how you can move some pieces around?

    • Back in Black

      @ DP

      “If its just an injury to a important forward, then send Liles as the seventh defensmen to the AHL for a cap reduction and bring up a Marlie foward. Thus you are back to 12 forwards an six defensmen, which is fine for a few games. I doubt anybody claims Liles and if they do it solves some problems. When the injury ends, bring Liles back up”

      Or you could do what other tams with a spare offensive defenceman do when a forward is injured: move him up to the 3rd/4th line until the forward is good to go. It’s not like the Leafs haven’t done this before (Red Kelly).

  • Jeremy Ian

    @Back in Black

    “Change the scenario if you like. You’re still dressing 11 forwards, then?”

    I am assuming starting out with 12 forwards and the 7 defensemen:

    Phaneuf
    Gunnarson
    Franson
    Gardiner
    Liles
    Fraser
    Ranger

    One injured defenseman and I am down to six…not a big deal. Teams go on six defensemen for four days all the time.

    If I get another injury to a forward I deal with it then and not before.
    I might go with 11 forwards. Orr and McLaren don’t play that much.

    I might send down Orr, who should clear waviers and bring up a Marlie who can play more minutes. Kenny Ryan or Greg McKegg can play more minutes at less of a salary cap and are waiver exempt when you send them down, at which point Orr comes back up.

    If I got into injury trouble I might also get serious about getting rid of Liles and eating some of his contract to free up cap space and bring in cheaper Marlie replacements

    But the key thing is that I do this when I am faced with the problem. You do not prematurely trade assets like Franson or not offer them all the money that you can so that you make cap space for extra players on an injury that hasn’t even occurred. You deal with a problem when it becomes a problem, not when it is a low probability event that exists only in your imagination

    • Back in Black

      Kessel (or some other important forward) missing a week due to a minor injury is an expected problem. It is not a low probability event.

      Sending Orr down for someone better is a good idea, though. Especially since he might get claimed and improve the team by subtraction.

  • Back in Black

    @Back in Black

    “You’ve got 12 forwards, 6 defencemen, and zero cap space.”

    Actually if you sign Franson and send down Holzer, you still have seven defencemen:

    Franson plus

    •Dion Phaneuf – $6.5 million, 1 year remaining.
    •John-Michael Liles – $3.875 million, 3 years remaining.
    •Carl Gunnarsson – $3.150 million, 3 years remaining.
    •Mark Fraser – $1.275 million, 1 year remaining.
    •Jake Gardiner – $1,1116,667 million cap hit in the final year of his Entry Level Contract.
    •Paul Ranger – $1 million, 1 year remaining.

  • RP

    Terrible deal for another useless face puncher with a high PDO puck luck. I prefer Kostka who had better Corsi and signed for cheap. Nonis is squandering million and AHL players like Fraser, Mclaren and Orr

  • millzy09

    “The more pressing issue is that the Leafs now have just under $5 million to sign both Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.”

    You have more money than that. If you are going to sign Franson, Holzer goes down to the AHL and you now have an extra $787,5000 cap space.

    Similarly its easy to push Trevor Smith down and then you $550,000 extra for Kadri

    With an AHL tean in the same city its easy to go with 12 fowards and push the fringe guys up and down as needed. They have done it before. Why can’t they do it again this year?

    We have guys that have cleared waivers before.

    Why can’t people get this?

    • Back in Black

      Phil Kessel sprains his ankle at the end of training camp and can’t play for a week. Cody Franson bruises his thumb blocking a shot in the first game of the season and can’t hold his stick for four days.

      You’ve got 12 forwards, 6 defencemen, and zero cap space. Go.

  • RP

    This is good news. Two more to go and one to leave. Just thinking that both Franson and Kadri will be signed and Lyles will be traded.
    Leaf Defense.
    Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Paul Ranger, Mark Fraser, Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and Petter Granberg.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Thanks, Steve!

    The deal is not a bad one, but you are right that the more important ones are to follow, and this one had to get done before the next two.

    Your narrative is a reminder that bargaining is bargaining — and what’s most uncertain is where the line will be drawn within quite a small margin.

    My prediction is that the settlements mean that Liles will be shipped out. Looking around the league, though, it’s remarkable how many franchises have boxed themselves into the same corner. It’s called “grouping in the dark.” What a dysfunctional league.

    • RP

      It’s going to be tough to move JML – even if they eat a portion of his salary. Like you said, there are not many teams that have the cap room to absorb his salary, plus he has a modified NTC. A buy-out seems much more likely. Which is too bad because he seems like a good guy in the locker room/community and I think he would make a pretty good third pairing with Fraser.

      It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out with JML, Kadri and Franson etc. #offseasondrama

      • Jeremy Ian

        And the teams with the room don’t have the revenue. But the whole principle of the cap was meant to keep the bottom teams from dropping out altogether. So, many teams with revenue are now bunched up at the top with little/no cap space and looking to offload their dragging anchor contracts, but the ones at the bottom by definition can’t afford to buy them because they are….at the bottom! Here’s an index of the cap payroll dilemma in the Leafs’ division.

        Boston – $70.2k
        Buffalo – $54.7k
        Detroit – $66.3k
        Florida – $56.2k
        Montreal – $63.6k
        Ottawa – $53.8k
        Tampa – $63.9k

        The story repeats itself across the League with a few outliers — Ottawa with real room. Philadelphia a train wreck between salaries and bonuses. This is from current capgeek, so dated. But the point still stands.

        This may be the thing that Nonis did NOT consider — that other teams would respond to the new contract and incentive structure to follow the very same strategy, and so push themselves together into a corner.

  • jasken

    There’s a shock pegged gunnarsson around 3.2-3.5 mil and Fraser 1.2 – 1.5. Where’s my GM contract Leafs I can do the job.

    So now on to Franson I think will be their next target to get signed.

  • Back in Black

    Thanks for posting that video of Fraser interview with Friedman. Quite something to watch a man watching video of his father in his prime. Mark seems like a humble and proud son.

    Serious though, did you see the size of his hands? Gives me a whole lot more appreciation of how tough it would be fighting this guy.

    P.S. Wonder is one guy you left of the D-list might come into play….. Petter Granberg.