Since the draft, it has been an absolute whirlwind of activity for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Free agency is in full swing, and the Buds are doing their best to lure free agents over to fill the gaps on their roster.
The Maple Leafs have actually had an incredibly successful off-season so far, at least in terms of player contracts. Short-term deals with high upside and low risk are the way to go in today’s NHL.
The Value of Short Contracts
There are two big reasons why the Maple Leafs have been so actively signing players to one or two years deals recently. The first is that they are acting as stop-gaps for the franchise’s younger players. Leafs management is unwilling to thrust their young prospects into the big leagues just yet. The Blue and White may not be a great team next year and having all those young prospects up and playing may do more harm than good for their overall development.
The second reason is to attempt to catch lightning in a bottle, and get good or even great value out of these incoming players. A perfect example from a few years ago is current Flames forward, Mason Raymond. After a disappointing season with the Vancouver Canucks, Raymond was looking for a team to sign with.
The Maple Leafs brought him into camp on a professional tryout contract. He impressed enough to earn a one year deal and went on to have his best statistical season since 2009-10. The trick is then to convince these players that they can replicate their success and sign for a longer term with the team.
Who Have the Maple Leafs Signed Recently?
When I said it has been a busy off-season thus far, I wasn’t joking. First came Matt Hunwick, a steady and veteran defenseman. He signed for a couple years at a $1.2 million cap hit. Next was P.A. Parenteau, the speedy winger and former Hab. He initialed on the dotted line for one year and $1.5 million.
The much maligned, Mark Arcobello, came relatively cheap for $1.1 million for a single season. Daniel Winnik, who the Maple Leafs signed last season and traded for assets, makes his return to Toronto for a couple years and a nice little raise at a $2.25 million cap hit. Include recently acquired forward, Shawn Matthais, into the mix as well.
Shawn Matthias gets a $2.3M, one-year deal from #leafs.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 6, 2015
The Leafs and Nazem Kadri recently came to a new deal that will pay him $4.1 million for a season. The former London Knight scored 18 goals and 21 assists in 73 games last season, but also missed some time due to injuries and suspensions. This one year deal is huge for Kadri. He now has to go out and prove to his new coach and management that his is an elite talent in today’s NHL.
Mike Babcock says 1-year deal was "home run" for Nazem Kadri. "He gets to come in and have a heck of a year and then put the screws to us."
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) July 6, 2015
That’s why these short deals are so vitally important in the league today. They provide a team with tons of flexibility moving forward. They are also usually incredibly cap friendly, which is essentially a must for teams today. The final bonus is that it puts a player on the hot seat to perform. If they feel the pressure, they will either wilt or thrive under it.
If these players succumb to the growing anxiety and pressure, the team only has to put up with them for a single season. If they thrive, on the other hand, the team receives great value out of them for a relatively cheap cost. They would then have the upper hand in negotiations if they tried to convince them to stay.
The NHL is a constantly shifting and evolving landscape. Teams needs to be so careful these days and are always looking for the best deal to benefit their club. The Maple Leafs management team is taking a smart approach with their recent signings. It will be a bit of a waiting game, but the risk is low and dividends are sky high. Those are good odds for any team.