Maple Leafs Were Smart to Remain Silent on First Day of Free Agency

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Luke Schenn still needs to be re-signed (Bridget Samuels)

With day one of free agency behind us, 73 players have signed new contracts, whether it be with the same team they played for last season or a different one. For the ones who found new homes, some of the biggest money that we have ever saw was dished out.

While many of the Maple Leafs’ likely targets were snagged early in free agency, it’s probably a good thing the Leafs were not able to sign any of them.

Joel Ward, Ville Leino, Scottie Upshall, Raffi Torres and Maxime Talbot all signed contracts that many people consider to be worth too much money. Meanwhile, the big free agent that just about everyone wanted, Brad Richards, ended up in New York by agreeing to a nine-year contract with the Rangers on Saturday morning.

While it would have been nice for the Leafs to acquire a solid forward to play on one of their top-three lines, it is important that general manager Brian Burke maintains a good amount salary cap space to work with.

Luke Schenn and Clarke MacArthur are both unsigned. Schenn could turn out to be the Maple Leafs’ franchise defenceman one day, while MacAthur is a top-six forward that the Maple Leafs would love to have back.

Both Schenn and MacArthur received qualifying offers from the team, meaning the Leafs have spoken with the two restricted free agents. However, they both have yet to accept their respective offers, and it appears as though they won’t.

Since Schenn and MacArthur likely won’t accept the Leafs’ qualifying offers, each player will need to work out an appropriate salary, which could be upwards of $3.5 million and $2.5 million per year respectively.

After signing Schenn, MacArthur and Tyler Bozak, the Maple Leafs should have anywhere from $5 million to $7 million in cap space, giving the team plenty of room to make a few more trades and minor signings leading up to the 2011-2012 season.

As a team, the Maple Leafs are in the latter half of a development process that has seen great strides be made by several youngsters such as Schenn, James Reimer, Keith Aulie and Nikolai Kulemin.

All four of those players have been improving quickly. Schenn and Aulie were much more solid on defence last year, Reimer had very impressive statistics and Kulemin scored 30 goals.

With that being said, aside from acquiring a top-six forward, why bother tinkering with the lineup just for the sake of switching things up?

As mentioned above, the Leafs should still have plenty of cap space after re-signing Schenn and MacArthur, even after signing Tim Connolly to a two-year, $9.5 million contract. Had the Leafs of matched or gone above Buffalo’s offer to Ville Leino, who is one of the players the Leafs wanted badly, they would have paid more money over a longer term for a player that could end up scoring fewer points.

Now, with lots of salary cap space to work with remaining, the Leafs have all the freedom they need to make a few more moves.

So don’t fret Leaf fans. Your team is still very much into free agency and trading.

Twitter: @THWLukasHardonk | Email: lukas.hardonk@gmail.com | Lukas’ archive

Thanks to CapGeek.com for all of the salary cap information.

Check out Lukas’ 2011 Toronto Maple Leafs Off-Season Guide.

Lukas Hardonk

Lukas Hardonk

Contributing Editor at The Hockey Writers
Lukas, a student at the University of Ottawa, covers the Toronto Maple Leafs on a part-time basis for The Hockey Writers. Contact Lukas at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter, @LukasHardonk.
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