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Photo Credit: © Dan Hamilton - USA Today

RFAs, the Series: 2017 Review and Self Grading

As I kicked off yesterday, the first step I want to take in this year’s RFAs series is to look back to last year and see just how I did. The hope is that this helps me to improve on my guessing ability. It also, I hope, shows some accountability for all of you that I actually care about doing well at this and providing interesting looks, as well as solid guesses, at how this all plays out.

If you want, you can take a look at a similar post I did for the 2016 series. I gave myself a “C” grade for that series.

As explained, in that post, I did optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic looks at each contract. What those really mean is that, for optimistic, this is what I’m hoping the Leafs do. Realistic is what, at the end of the day, I really think they would do. And, of course, pessimistic is what I’m afraid they’ll do.

I also mentioned in the kick-off post that for Nikita Zaitsev, the fun was somewhat spoiled when his deal was let out ahead of time by the insiders. As such, I’m not going to include him in this grading. But if you want to read what my thinking was at the time, you can check that out here.

The Grades

Connor Brown: 3 years, $6.3M, $2.1M AAV

From the post, I looked at the following numbers for Brown:

Optimistic: $3M x 2 years

Realistic: $3.5M x 3 years

Pessimistic: $4M x 2 years

Clearly, I was well overestimating what Connor Brown is worth. The idea of paying him $4M now feels ludicrous. I was right on the term side, though, correctly guessing in the “realistic” option that the Leafs would sign him for 3 years. I think I was seduced by his goal totals, as well as all the time he spent on the top two lines with Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri that season. I especially liked that most of his scoring was 5-on-5 as he didn’t get much powerplay time.

At the end of it, the Leafs correctly identified Brown as a depth player who should be paid like one. Supposedly, I just didn’t expect them to do that.

GRADE: C-

Brendan Leipsic: Selected by Vegas

From the post, I looked at the following options for Leipsic:

Optimistic: $925k x 2 years

Realistic: $800k x 1 year

Pessimistic: Part of a trade package

At the time, I would never have guessed that the Leafs would have left Leipsic off of their expansion draft protected list in favour of Matt Martin. Obviously, there’s not a lot of room to be upset with that, since the Leafs don’t exactly have a shortage of talented wingers. Although, despite the Leafs not having a spot for Leipsic, they also don’t seem to have a spot for Matt Martin anymore either. And it’s clear to me which of these two players is more talented now.

Anyway, contract-wise, I was sort of close with the numbers that Vegas eventually signed Leipsic to, 2 years, $1.3M, for a $650k AAV. A little high, but correctly under $1M AAV.

I also did correctly suspect that the Leafs might be looking at moving on without Brendan Leipsic, though I thought it’d be in the form of a trade and not the expansion draft.

GRADE: C

Zach Hyman: 4 years, $9M, $2.25M AAV

From the post, I looked at the following contract options for Zach Hyman:

Optimistic: $3M x 2 years

Realistic: $2.5M x 4 years

Pessimistic: $2.75M x 6 years

Finally, I got one pretty much on the money. I had a sneaking suspicion the Leafs were going to be looking for term from Zach Hyman and that turned out to be correct. While only slightly off on the dollars, I got the term exact in the “realistic” option.

At the time, I didn’t agree with the idea of giving a depth player a four year term. I even went towards comparing Hyman to Justin Abdelkader. It’s become obvious since that Hyman really belongs on the top line, though as a support player. He was the only one on his line to really show up against the Bruins in the playoffs.

Anyway, I got the guess right, and I get to celebrate that even though I incorrectly thought it was a bad idea.

GRADE: A

Justin Holl: 1 year, $650k ($175k minors salary)

From the post, I looked at a couple different contracts for Holl, including a suspicion that he’d get an AHL deal:

Optimistic: 1 year AHL contract

Realistic: $625k, 1 year 2-way contract

Pessimistic: $700k x 1 year, 2 way

In the realistic option, though, I hit the proverbial nail on the head, correctly guessing that Holl would get a 2 way deal for 1 year at around $625k. As above with Hyman, I was only off by $25k which is pretty good to me. I’m on a roll!

GRADE: A+

Seth Griffith: Not qualified

Sergey Kalinin: Not qualified

I combined these into one post here, but for both players I wasn’t very optimistic on their future with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For Kalinin:

I’m not going to bother outlining Optimistic, Realistic or Pessimistic options for Sergey Kalinin. There’s just so little a chance that the Leafs bring him back in the organization in any capacity. One can very realistically assume that he does not receive a Qualifying Offer.

For Griffith I did make some guesses on the off chance that he did get signed by the Leafs:

Optimistic: 1-year AHL deal

Realistic: No Qualifying offer

Pessimistic: $625k x 1 year

Griffith did end up getting signed by the Buffalo Sabres, and even played some NHL time (albeit on that tire fire Sabres team). He signed for 1 year at $650k, right around what I figured the Leafs might sign him to, if they were going to sign him. Bonus points? I guess so.

GRADE: A+

Garret Sparks: 2 year, $1.35M, $675k AAV (Year 1 minors salary $200k)

Antoine Bibeau: Not qualified

Once again, I did a combined post for these players. Both minor league goalies, it made sense at the time to combine them so they could be compared back to back.

For Sparks:

Optimistic: 2 year, 2-way, $650k

Realistic: 1 year, 2-way, $750k

Pessimistic: 1 year, 1-way, $900k

For Bibeau:

Optimistic: 1 year AHL contract

Realistic: No offer

Pessimistic: 1 year, 2-way, $550k

Sparks’ contract is actually really interesting and something I didn’t expect. It’s a two-way deal for the first year, but it’s a one-way deal for the second year. This was something I definitely didn’t anticipate. It seems the plan was to keep McElhinney as the backup last year, and then the year after they’d give Sparks a real shot at the job.

For Bibeau, the writing was definitely on the wall, and with the great play of Kaskisuo for Orlando, he became expendable.

Grade: A-

Grade Point Average

Well I think I actually did really well last year when looking at it all. I missed a bit on Brown and Leipsic, but otherwise I was pretty consistently on the mark. It was also a really easy-to-manage crop of RFAs, so it’s not like I’m a wizard or anything (only when I play Dungeons and Dragons).

I’m going to give myself a B+ this year for my efforts. This is a big improvement from last year’s C grade. I think there’s still some lessons learned, as there always should be. I underestimated the Leafs’ ability to recognize Brown’s future role, instead only focusing on what he had done in the prior season. I also completely failed to incorporate the possibility of the expansion draft taking Leipsic from the Leafs.

This year’s series is going to be a lot more difficult, especially since it includes the big 3 names for the Leafs of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. I hope you’ll reading the posts as they come.

Tomorrow, we’re going to start off strong with the first big name for this series when we take a look at William Nylander, so keep an eye out for that!