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Corey Perry and the Toronto Maple Leafs: Does it make sense?
By James Reeve1 month ago
As a team desperate to lift the Stanley Cup, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be considering all approaches to help improve the roster, so could free agent Corey Perry be a possibility?
If reports are to be believed, both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Corey Perry have mutual interest. The 38-year-old winger is an unrestricted free agent after having his contract terminated by the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this season under somewhat uncertain circumstances.
Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman reported on Wednesday that Perry is free to sign with any team in the league after having a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, clearing the way for the former Cup, Hart, and Richard winner to return to the game and potentially link up with a contender in search of another shot at the ultimate prize.
With the Leafs reportedly interested in bringing the veteran on board, the biggest question that needs to be answered is simple: does it make sense?
Yes, It Does
Perry is a veteran player in the NHL with 1273 regular season games under his belt with the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Chicago Blackhawks.
All told, Perry has scored 421 goals and has 892 total points to his name since being drafted in the first round (28th overall) in 2003, and has a decent amount of silverware to his name.
He is a one-time Stanley Cup champion, having lifted the trophy after the 2006-07 season, while his best individual season came in 2010-11 when he scored 50 goals (104 points) and was named the winner of the Hart Trophy and Rocket Richard Trophy, cementing his place as one of the league’s best players through his prime.
He has also been a fairly noted ‘Leafs Killer’ during his time in the league, often appearing and causing a problem for Toronto and giving his team victory over them, with 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 33 appearances against the team in blue and white, including a goal for the Blackhawks earlier this season that saw the Leafs slump to a 4-1 loss. Having a pest such as Perry off the market would be a relief, as it would no doubt come back to haunt them if they allowed him to join another contender, especially when the playoffs roll around, and his tenacity and penchant for disrupting play would be a valued asset in this fairly new-look Toronto team.
While a lot of the team’s core has remained, the team is playing with more physicality this season and the players have shown a willingness to react appropriately when opposing players light up their stars, which is something Perry would no doubt relish being involved in at this stage of his career.
He isn’t the point producer that he was a decade ago, but Perry would provide the team with some depth scoring, having nine points (four goals, five assists) in 16 games with Chicago before his termination, which would be more than enough for the Leafs to receive some genuine value from him in a bottom six (most likely fourth line) role. He would of course come very cheaply, having already had his $2 million signing bonus and part of the $2 million base salary that Chicago gave him this off-season, and if he has any real desire to continue playing and even have a chance at competing for the Stanley Cup, then a league minimum deal is realistically what he should be expecting to get back onto the ice.
No, It Doesn’t
The most obvious argument against bringing Perry into the fold is the murky situation that led to him having his contract terminated by the Blackhawks after just 16 games this year.
Upon Perry’s termination, he made an apologetic statement and touched on his battle with alcohol, with reports suggesting that this was the cause of the issue that led to the Blackhawks deciding to let the 38-year-old veteran go. While Perry was never prevented from signing with another team in the NHL, the league has reportedly given its blessing through Gary Bettman to allow him to continue his playing career should one of the other 31 teams be willing to take him on.
For the Leafs, they will have to determine whether or not the issue could have a negative impact on the franchise. Could it damage PR if the full details of what happened became public knowledge? Would the players on the roster accept him into their group without knowing what happened? Could it disrupt team harmony?
Not only would the Leafs need to truly uncover the full facts and make these determinations, but is the effort worth it for what Perry is at this stage of his career?
He is a former elite player who is well into the twilight of his career, with retirement firmly in sight, and he may not even offer that much more than some of the depth players already on the books with the Leafs. Would replacing the likes of Bobby McMann or Pontus Holmberg with Perry really benefit the Toronto Maple Leafs in their hunt for the Stanley Cup? Would it truly tip the scales in their favour, or would it just give them another body that would do something similar to what they already have?
Bringing in Perry would require another player to either be traded away or sent down to the minors. If he does not move the needle that much, is it really worth taking someone else out of the roster to fit him in?
Arguments could be made that Corey Perry would be an upgrade over some of the players playing further down the lineup, having more points than Noah Gregor, Ryan Reaves, Bobby McMann, and David Kämpf despite having played fewer games than any of them. Having some additional depth scoring would be a boost for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as it would pick up some of the slack should the top lines fail to produce, and Perry’s pest-like nature would fit in well with the current group.
The bottom line is playing like any other in the league, focusing on defensive play and disrupting opponents’ flow, rather than trying to be a high-powered offensive option, and Perry would slot in well in that role while still being able to contribute in the offensive zone more than some of the players that have featured for the team in that position.
For it to truly work, Perry must be a league-minimum deal. The Leafs have a tight cap situation as it is, and if they don’t want to trade away anyone, such as Conor Timmins who is a prime candidate for it should the need arise, then the deal needs to be workable with the other deals the team currently has that can be moved down to the minors.
There are plenty of reasons why Perry might be a good addition for the Leafs, but there are still some significant questions that need to be addressed before the team should consider making an approach.
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