On Monday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Mason Raymond to a one-year, $1 million contract. Was this a good signing? What does Raymond bring to the table? These are the questions I will attempt to answer.
Maple Leafs Got Great Value
By all accounts and purposes, this was a very, very fair deal. A couple weeks ago I wrote that I was hoping Nonis could perhaps lock down Raymond for $800,000, but all in all $1 million is still a bargain considering what Raymond can likely bring to the table. Last year, Raymond made $2.25 million while struggling to produce for the Canucks, but so far in the preseason he has showcased some very strong play, including on the penalty kill. He has 3 points in 3 preseason games thus far (two goals, one assist).
Some probably think (and rightly so) that this may put the Leafs into too tight of a cap squeeze. This may be true but with Clarkson’s suspension, this signing become that much more important. Remember there is now a hole in the top-six for at least the first 10 games, and possibly more when the injuries start to hit. For those who missed it, David Clarkson won’t make his regular season debut for the blue and white until October 25th at the earliest, thanks to hopping the bench to engage in a fight in Sunday night’s preseason victory over Buffalo. That action got him a 1o game regular season ban. Coincidentally, that date falls on Wendal Clark’s birthday, a Maple Leaf icon whom Clarkson has drawn comparisons to. For those who missed Sunday’s entertainment, the full video and break down of what happened can be found here. (On a side note, Clarkson is still eligible to take part in the remainder of the preseason. Figure that one out, will ya?)
Raymond will undoubtedly be the one to take Clarkson’s spot on the second scoring unit and I’m guessing he may do quite well. When Clarkson returns, he can easily slide back to the third line wing. Either way you slice it, $1 Million for one year is cheap and carries zero risk.
Fast as a Speeding Bullet
Raymond’s speed is his strongest asset. In his first preseason game for the Buds, he scored a shorthanded goal. Hopefully, there is more of that to come. Here is another shorty from him when he was with the Canucks. Just watch him skate.
Raymond’s speed will be key on the penalty kill but it is also helpful when playing a checking role. Though the centerman is usually the first one back out of all the forwards, when a winger has speed to burn, it helps ease the defensive workload of the center. Of course, when breaking out of the defensive zone, a winger with speed gives more passing options to both his center and his defensemen.
The Motivation Factor
Raymond is obviously coming off a down year. He has struggled to regain his form from 2009-10, when he had 25 goals and 53 points with Vancouver. But remember, he signed a one-year contract. That means he is already playing for his next one. He is still only 28 years old and wants to prove to everyone that he can still produce points at a decent level. More importantly though, I’m sure he wants to win and he can bring his experience of going all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 to one of the youngest clubs in the NHL.
Considering Raymond can play in the bottom or top six, and on both specialty units, I’d say $1 Million was a no-brainer, even with the Leafs basically at the cap ceiling. Any way you slice it, I’m looking forward to seeing Mason Raymond out on the ice October 1st.
Nathan Kanter covers the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs for The Hockey Writers. He received his master’s in journalism from Western University in May of 2015 before serving as the first ever Digital Managing Editor at Western’s university newspaper, The Western Gazette, in 2015-16. From 2016-18, he served as the radio play-by-play voice of the Battlefords North Stars in the SJHL. His work has been published in The Hockey News, at Sportsnet.ca and at Dobber Prospects.