Now in August, the Toronto Maple Leafs 2017 offseason is finally near its completion.
And with 49 of its 50 roster spots filled, the Leafs need just one more player to ink the dotted line; Connor Brown.
Originally a sixth-round pick in 2012, the 23-year-old winger was one of six rookies to maintain a consistent spot on the Leafs this past season.
His diligence and ability to contribute offensively led to alternating spots on both Nazem Kadri and Auston Matthews’ wing.
When all said and done, Brown was one of head coach Mike Babcock’s favorite players and potted a solid 20 goals and 16 assists in all 82 games.
So why hasn’t he been signed yet?
It’s a matter of time.
Currently, the Leafs stand at just about under a projected -$4 million in cap space according to capfriendly.com.
It was revealed this summer that you can in fact put players on the long-term I.R in the summer. And it was thought that the Lupul and Horton cap hits were holding up the deal. But that isn’t the case. So why no deal?
Will the deal come sooner or later? In short, it could be one of both.
You would think it’s almost certain that Brown will be back in Toronto for the 2017-18 season. But who knows, maybe they’ll trade him?
What kind of deal will he sign?
From the way I see it, there are two types of contracts Lamoriello & Co. will offer to Brown.
The first is what many expect; a long-term deal in which the Leafs shell out a Zach Hyman-like amount of cash.
The Maple Leafs were undoubtedly a well-oiled machine this past season, led by rookies Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner.
If the “Big Three” was the raw power derived from the machine, to Babcock, Brown, and Hyman were the oil that made it all happen.
He values a player like Brown enough to replace him for a more skilled Nylander on Matthews’ wing.
At a young age and not much sample size, this could be a great time to lock up Brown on a multi-year contract with great financial terms.
But Brown could bet on himself, feel that if he puts up bigger numbers, that there is a bigger contract for him in the future. The lure of long-term security might not be enough to get his name on a long-term deal.
Toronto Maple Leafs Could Offer Bridge Deal
Similar to the one-year, $4.1 million Kadri contract in the Summer of 2015, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Brown on a short-term deal at this point in time.
He would obviously get a lot less dollar than Kadri’s $4.1 million, but a one-year deal wouldn’t be totally far off.
After the Leafs’ were eliminated in Game 6 of the first round, Babcock shared thoughts regarding his nine players that made NHL playoff debuts in the Washington series.
“Until you’ve been through the playoffs with players, you don’t really know the level of a player you have.”
Despite a regular season that exceeded expectations, Brown was fairly invisible during the first round series. He recorded just one assist and was among the bottom half of forwards in terms of possession through all six games.
He wasn’t playing absolutely horrendous by any means, but he could have contributed more (especially on the offensive end) against Washington.
With one more season to give before major deals expire, a bridge contract shouldn’t necessarily be ruled out.
How much will he make?
Connor Brown’s got a lot going for him in a contract year.
He’s coming off of a 20 goal season in his rookie campaign, proved he could hang with all of Matthews, Kadri and (future center) Nylander and most importantly, his coach is a huge fan.
Based on these handy free agency projections by Matt Cane, Brown is estimated to receive just under $2.8 million AAV (average annual value).
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After the Hyman contract (four-years, $9 million) was made official, my guess is Brown is currently in the $2.6 – $3.2 million range on a short-term deal. If the Toronto Maple Leafs want to lock him up and bet on him before he’s fully earned it, it’s going to cost more.
Compared to Hyman, Brown is more gifted offensively and possesses similar strengths on the fore-check.
He should be paid more as a result.
When is this all coming together?
The million-dollar question.
It might happen tomorrow, during the Rookie Tournament or even right before training camp.
The bottom line is, regardless of when it happens, it will happen – unless it doesn’t and he’s surprisingly traded.
Connor Brown will most likely be a Leaf next season.