After a long decision-making process that saw Clarke MacArthur and Brian Burke wait til mere moments before the deadline to file for arbitration, the Leafs’ most cost-effective player re-signed with the club where he saw what he and the Leafs will hope is the first of many offensively impressive seasons. A two year deal worth $6.5 million will see MacArthur earn just a touch under triple as much as he was paid for his services in 2010-11. MacArthur was one of the few Leafs that was consistently good last season, and a lot of that had to do with the surprising chemistry he demonstrated with linemates Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski.
The “Mac’N the USSR” line totaled 80 goals and 177 points, with MacArthur leading the way via 41 assists and 62 points. Not lost on Leafs’ fans was the character and general truculent spirit MacArthur carried himself with, as he always seems to play with an edge that reaches beyond his 6’0, 191-pound frame. The most notable examples of those traits were his two fights, as he wrecked Jaroslav Spacek and ragdolled Chad LaRose – while his fists aren’t the reason Leaf fans are happy he’s back, his overall play and attitude make him a welcome member of the club.
Now, what to expect from a former grinder who may or may not have had a career year last season? While some would argue that MacArthur’s exploits in 2010-11 were a flash-in-the-pan anomaly that he won’t repeat, I’d counter that I don’t think we’ve seen the best of the 26 year-old. Sure, both Kulie and Grabbo had great seasons, as well, but all three players are coming into the prime of their careers, along with a team that’s continuing to grow. The strengthening of the blue line and Phil Kessel’s line – regardless of your opinion of Tim Connolly – will take some of the pressure off of MacArthur and his linemates, who routinely saw some of the stiffer defensive opposition last year as they developed into the most consistent scoring threat the Leafs had to offer.
I’m not a huge stats guy, so I’m not going to try and make some off-the-wall prediction about how many goals or points MacArthur will tally in the upcoming season, but I’d be happy with anything over 50, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the 60-70 point range. The contract offers him a great opportunity to prove his worth and value as a true top-six scorer in the NHL, while at the same time affording the Leafs the ability to decide whether or not they will commit long-term money to him in the future. According to some sources, the reason the negotiations took so long was the fact that MacArthur apparently was looking for a three-year deal, while Burke would go no longer than two. In the end, arbitration would have been ill-advised for both sides, as the resulting contract would only have been good for a single season, and, given the inflated contracts distorting market value in the current free agent market, probably would have cost the Leafs much more than they were willing to spend to keep him. Win-win situation all around.