As the trade deadline approaches and Brian Burke starts making decisions on how to fix a team he thought should be further up the standings by now, the Maple Leafs completed their first piece of business moving towards next season.
Toronto announced it had come to terms on a 3 year extension with winger Mike Brown, who would have become a restricted free agent at season end. Brown was drafted by Dave Nonis for Vancouver in the 5th round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He’d played 142 NHL games for the Canucks and Ducks, amassing 9 goals, 3 assists and 306 penalty minutes before Burke brought him to Toronto at the cost of a 5th round draft pick in the 2010 Draft.
Mike Brown was brought in by Burke to add toughness to his bottom-6 forward set, and Brown has delivered. In only 27 games, he’s scored twice and added 3 assists, while notching 41 penalty minutes. Averaging 10 minutes a game, and playing on the 4th line, often with Tim Brent and Colton Orr, Brown has brought a physical presence, recording over 60 hits and a +3 rating on a Leaf team that has few plus players. He’s an energy guy with a responsible defensive side, and one of the better shot blockers the Leafs have. Unfortunately for the team, he’s missed over 20 games this season with a groin pull (1 game), broken finger (19 games) and a 3 game suspension for a blindside hit to Phoenix’s Ed Jovanovski earlier in January.
The 25-year-old Brown was on the final year of a 2 year contract signed with Anaheim in 2009, which paid him $1.075M and carried a cap hit of $537,000 per season. Terms of the new deal were released as follows: 3 year deal, paying $2.21M, for an annual cap hit of $736,667 (information thanks to TSN.ca and capgeek.com). Brown will be an unrestricted free agent when the contract expires at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.
Certainly, this player signing does not solve the core problems the Maple Leafs as a team have in being competitive this season. Some will argue that re-signing a player on a team that is losing does not improve the team in any way, especially someone in the tough guy/grinder role. The bottom line for Toronto though is this is a very good signing. Brown is a tough, hard-working, young forward who embraces his role as a sometime fighter, shot blocker and 4th liner with energy and pride each night. With Colton Orr also locked up for another 2 seasons, Burke has 2 capable fighters in his lineup who aren’t afraid to throw some decent bodychecks and be the spark line for this team. The increase to Toronto’s cap spending is minimal at $200,000 more per season, and now gives the Leafs 12 players (7 forwards) under contract for next season, with approximately $22M in cap space remaining (barring whatever trades or buyouts are made).
Leaf Nation will be happy with this signing, as Brown has quickly become a fan favourite. That and, maybe equally important, he’s rockin’ that ‘stache like crazy.