In case you haven’t heard yet, star rookie netminder James Reimer has been re-signed by the Leafs, as was expected after his impressive freshman campaign. Nothing too unusual about it – a pretty standard contract for a talented young goalie. The new deal will keep Reimer in Toronto for the next three seasons, at a cap hit of $1.8 million ($5.4 million total). He certainly earned it with his performance – 20 wins, 2.60 GAA, 3 shutouts and a .921 save percentage in less than half a season.
I like the length and money on the deal, as it works out well for both sides. Reimer was negotiating from a much stronger position than Jonas Gustavsson was last summer, but he wasn’t in a position to command serious money. The three year window will give both Reimer and the Leafs time to continue their growth, and we’ll certainly know for sure by the end of the contract whether Reimer is to be the goalie of the future or not. At $1.8 million, Reimer is rewarded adequately for his performance, without really cutting into the cap space Burke has to play with this summer, or down the road.
With that very important formality taken care of, Burke can now focus on the rest of his restricted and unrestricted free agents, of which he has more than a few. Reimer may have been the easiest of his restricted free agents, as BB now faces the dilemma of properly assessing the values of players like Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacArthur, Carl Gunnarsson and, most importantly, Luke Schenn. Bozak will likely be in line for a pretty decent pay cut from the $3.725 he’s been making off his entry-level deal, as he hasn’t really shown top-line center quality. Schenn will almost certainly be looking at a contract well over $3.5 million, and it’s tough to argue that he shouldn’t make more than Mike Komisarek ($4.5 million a season).
Gunnarsson and MacArthur are the two that I would assume are going to be the most difficult to properly assess in terms of a fair contract. Gunnarsson didn’t take as big of a step forward in 2010-11 as many people expected him to after a strong season in ’09-10, but he showed plenty of promise and could step up and fill in some of the offense which will be missing from Tomas Kaberle. MacArthur, on the other hand, had the best season of his career, breaking both the 20-goal and 60-point plateaus. For a player that has never shown this kind of offensive upside, but showed no signs of slowing down at any point throughout the year, I think it’s safe to say SuperMac will be making at least $2.75 million, if not north of $3 million by the time negotiations are done.
On the UFA side, Burke also has to make decisions on just about all of last year’s assortment of 4th line players – Darryl Boyce, Tim Brent, Jay Rosehill, Freddie Sjostrom and Joey Crabb are all due for new contracts. Of the five, the only one who should undoubtedly be back is Brent, who showed the type of heart and guts that you want your fourth liners to exhibit. Rosehill was a personal favorite of mine, and seems to have a bit more of a complete game than Colton Orr, without sacrificing much in the way of pugilistic skill. Crabb put in yeoman’s work when needed, but he’s more of an AHL player than anything else, while Sjostrom never made the defensive impact on the team many thought he would when he arrived from Calgary in Dion Phaneuf’s shadow. Darryl Boyce’s fate may be decided by who Burke targets with his draft picks and other offseason moves. Like Brent, he showed a lot of grit this year, but doesn’t really have the talent package to contribute to a team that’s truly going to make some noise in the playoffs.
Jean-Sebastian Giguere is still waiting for a decision on his fate, and with his age, injury history and relatively mediocre play in 2010-11, he’s clearly going to see his paychecks drop significantly. I doubt he’ll be back. Oh, and I almost forgot the last of the restricted free agents – Matt Lashoff. Another guy that came in at the end of the year and played well when called upon, I think Lashoff is a better player than he’s been given the opportunity to showcase so far. I think he could end up back with the club, and, as the roster stands right now, have a damn good chance of making the team out of camp. Of course, there’s a long time for Burke to tinker with the roster between now and training camp, so that could become a moot point anyways.
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