Dave Nonis took a step in the wrong direction when he resigned Joffrey Lupul instead of trading him or letting him walk. Lupul becomes only the second Leafs player to be signed through the 2017-18 season, when he will be 34. (JVR is the other.) Lupul will make $5.25 million per season.
Lupul had a career year last year: just over 1 ppg compared to 0.8 ppg in ’07-’08 and 0.65 in ’05-’06, his previous two best scoring seasons. And so there was a danger he would get extended. The most appropriate comparison I can make – though it doesn’t fit the kind of player Lupul is – is the Blake deal:
- Blake was older at the time – in his early 30s – but he came off a career year with the Islanders (albeit a transparently weak one: 40G and only 29A) and signed a five year deal worth $20 mil with the Leafs.
- In one season – ’08-’09 – Blake approached that total but only because he became the Leafs’ de facto star player in a season where the Leafs were supposed to be tanking for John Tavares. To give you an idea of how bad that team was, Ponikarovsky was second on the team in points.
I am not, for a moment, suggesting that the Leafs are headed to a Lupul-dominated team in 2017 but rather that re-signing guys after career years is kind of ridiculous, unless those guys happen to be reasonably young. Lupul, at 29, is not exactly sports-young. He isn’t sports-old either, but he’s hardly representative of the second-youngest-team-in-the-NHL Maple Leafs. He’s almost 30 and he is coming off far and away the best year he has ever had in his career.
Moreover, he has still managed to only play two full seasons – plus two nearly-full seasons – in nearly a decade-long career. Lupul has averaged less than 65 games a season throughout his career. Why should we think he will get healthier and remain as productive as he was at age 28 for the next five years? That doesn’t make any sense.
Basically, the Leafs are betting that Lupul will improve both in terms of his health and his scoring when he is nearly thirty. I wouldn’t take that bet.
I am all in favour of having veterans on the roster to help out younger players, but this contract commits the Leafs to Lupul as long as to any other current Maple Leaf, it maintains the logjam at left wing – where MacArthur – age 27 – JVR – age 23 – and potentially Kadri – age 22 – are all trying to find Top 6 minutes and where other LWs in the system trying to make the team will have trouble making it. And it does both these things at a relatively substantial cost: the Leafs are at nearly 1/3 of the cap for 2014-15, and that 1/3 is committed to four players (in order of salary): Grabo, Lupul, JVR and Liles. Does that core sound like a sound future for the Maple Leafs to you?
Some thoughts on Saturday Night’s Opener, brought to you by terrible sample sizes everywhere
- Kadri looks like he can actually play centre in the NHL, contrary to what I thought. Despite his impressive performance on Saturday, he is playing less than 3rd-line-minutes and I can’t see the value in that in terms of his future development. Hopefully he gets more playing time. I remain skeptical on whether he will work out as a centre but Saturday was a good start.
- Barely knew Komarov existed. It goes to show that being a pest is a more translatable skill than a lot of other hockey skills. I see why he won out over Frattin. My apologies for omitting him from the preview.
- Despite what I said about Mike Kostka, the guy looks like a legitimate NHL defenseman. The question is, why did so many other teams not give him a chance? This definitely happens – albeit less often than the media wants us to believe – but it’s so rare for the Leafs to be the team that actually finds that guy. Usually it’s the opposite: the Leafs try to convince us that someone who has failed with other teams will work here, and the guy still fails. But at least after one game, I am convinced about Kostka. I guess I should have watched some Marlies games this season before judging him, eh? Anyway, he really does put some wrinkles into the Leafs D corps. All I can say is that if Komisarek has any value within a few weeks, there is no reason to keep him around any more. With Kostka – and even without a healthy Gardiner – I think the Leafs have enough D to get rid of Komisarek/ (I remain a believer that Holzer belongs in the NHL)
- What is Colton Orr doing in the NHL?