Earlier today it was reported by Nick Kypreos that James Van Riemsdyk would likely be shut down for the season after a setback in the rehabilitation process of the fractured foot he suffered early in January. Now, according to the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran, Joffrey Lupul is suffering a similar fate. Out since a February 6th game against the Senators, Lupul is reportedly being shut down for the season as well after recently undergoing sports hernia surgery.
After putting up just 21 points in 55 games last season, it was another disappointing year for Lupul. Riddled once again by injury, Lupul had 14 points in 46 games this season. Not only are the point totals bad for somebody making $5.250 million per season, but the 46 games played are the fewest amount he’s had in an 82-game season since the 09-10 campaign when he played just 23 games. The injuries he suffered that year threatened to end his career, before he had a renaissance of sorts during his early time with the Leafs.
So what now for Lupul? The already unlikely prospect of trading him before the deadline becomes close to impossible. He’s played poorly enough over the last two seasons that the only way you can unload his contract is by exchanging it for another player with a contract similarly as bad, such as that of Fedor Tyutin in Columbus, or perhaps Ryane Clowe in New Jersey.
The remaining possibilities? One, you buy him out. It would mean he’s on the books for four more seasons as opposed to just two, but if the Leafs want to free his roster spot up badly enough, it’s a viable option.
Two, Lupul could retire. This seems unlikely given the money he’s set to rake in over the next two seasons. But understandably so, Lupul appears physically and mentally drained by the rash of injuries he’s suffered over the past several seasons. It wouldn’t shock me if he’s had enough. That said, if Lupul does want to retire (and the Leafs might like this option best of all as well), he could always try and take the Chris Pronger/Marc Savard/Stephane Robidas approach wherein he’s placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve. This allows the Leafs to alleviate his cap space from their books (aside from the offseason), and it allows Lupul to still cash in on what remains of his five-year contract.
The final possibility would be that he returns to play for the Leafs next season. From my perspective, there’s nothing really wrong with this. No, Lupul isn’t very effective anymore and no, he certainly doesn’t live up to his cap hit. But the Leafs are in the early stages of a lengthy rebuild. Having a veteran presence around with at least some offensive capabilities left, especially when the Leafs really don’t need the money, seems okay to me.
In any event, I hope Lupul can get around all these injuries that have been ailing him for the past several years. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, and you don’t like to see anyone go through what he’s had to deal with. So if he does return to the NHL next season for the Leafs or for somebody else, hopefully he does so with a clean bill of health.