Monday, June 11, 2007

To keep Sundin...

And the Sundin camp seems satisfied with Ferguson's offer that will maintain his status as the highest-paid Leaf. It's believed Sundin will agree to a two-year deal worth at least $11.5 million (all figures U.S.) – the same average salary as defenceman Bryan McCabe.
At 36, Mats Sundin remains the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it would be shocking series of events for that to change this summer.

Sticking with the tried and true, the popular veterans, despite how the team performs on the ice, has been the Leafs' way for decades, and the franchise has mortgaged its future more than once — most famously, perhaps, in 1996 when the rights to the fourth-overall pick (that was to become Roberto Luongo) were dealt in order to bring back an aged Wendel Clark — in search of former glories.

Sundin's a terrific player, and last season, he was the best of the Leafs. But 2006-07 will be his thirteenth consecutive season in the blue and white, and the team will be within $10- to $12-million of the salary cap with him signed at $5.75-million.

Can you add another goaltender, replace the contributions of Mike Peca, Jeff O'Neill, Bates Battaglia and Yanic Perreault, and add the requisite parts to take this team from ninth in the Eastern Conference to the point where it can compete with Ottawa and Buffalo for $10- to $12-million?

The answer's probably no. And it can't be worth hanging on for a few more "glory years" if they'll be spent scratching and clawing to make the playoffs.

But Sundin will continue to sell tickets and jerseys, and the front office can avoid dealing with the deluge that moving him would unleash in this city. To keep Sundin is certainly the easy move, given he's the latest favourite son, but is it the right move?

It is if you're in the business of turning a player into a brand name into a condo development into a pension fund.


At 5:11 p.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Karina said...

Hrm. Perrault was brought in to contribute what was missing with Peca out so lumping those two into the same list is a bit silly. Battaglia made $500,000 last year so he won't be expensive to resign, and it's generally accepted that O'Neill is gone, as he didn't play much the end of last year.

I'd still like if there was more available for some more reasonable players, and that Antropov and Ponikarovsky hadn't cost so much to resign, but I don't think the Leafs will be any worse than last year. The biggest if is in goal, Raycroft's around for a couple more years and there will more than likely be a new backup in town.

At 5:15 p.m., June 11, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'd still like if there was more available for some more reasonable players, and that Antropov and Ponikarovsky hadn't cost so much to resign, but I don't think the Leafs will be any worse than last year.

I'm not saying they will be. They'll likely tread water, or add one 'name' free agent and put the pressure on him to take this team from where it is now to the promised land.

At 5:43 p.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous pete said...

Full disclosure: I advocated for trading Sundin away at the deadline in each of the last two seasons. They didn't. I wanted them to keep Tucker, only if he could be had for less than $4-million a year. They did.

My answer to your question of whether they can fill the team's holes for $10-million is no.

But I don't see how jettisoning Sundin necessarily helps. Would $15-million allow them to fill all those holes, plus find a #1 centre that can do what Sundin does? Is there someone out there who's at least as good, cheaper, and available?

Probably not either.

Unless the team can unload an expensive d-man (please, God, let the McCabe to Long Island rumour be true) and turn him into an elite goalie or a legit scoring winger, the picture of next season is going to look a lot like this one did -- with Andrew Raycroft peering into his trapper, trying to find where the hole is.

The Leafs are mired in a no man's land between Cupville and Tavares-town, and I don't see a way out.

Bring on that #13 pick.

At 5:44 p.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Karina said...

Sadly, I think the promised land is far too dependant upon the shoulders of Andrew Raycroft for me to worry too much about what else Ferguson may be doing.

At 9:54 p.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Excellent analysis, James. There are fans who believe the laundry is good enough to sell itself, but you need a star wearing that laundry to make it more attractive, and that's why they're hanging on to Sundin.

Ultimately, it's the wrong move, but then again one never accused those who've run the Leafs in recent years of foresight.

At 10:19 p.m., June 11, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

You will be surprised how quickly the Leafers turn on their captain once he is traded or bought out. These are rational people and they can see what's best for the team once the fog of ego is lifted.

At 10:51 p.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

James, sad to say, but in today's NHL with the cap going up to possibly $52 million, $5.75 million per year for Sundin is probably not unreasonable.

Over the last four years he has consistently averaged 30 goals and 45 assists for 75 points. However, his plus minus stats are going down hill each year.

Meanwhile Scott Gomez has averaged less offence over the last four years while playing with considerably more talented wingers than Sundin has had the opportunity to play with.

Gomez is expected to get a $6.0 to $6.5 million offer for 4 or five years.

Now Gomez is younger and has more upside, but Sundin is only being offerred a two year deal.

Bottom line, $11.5 million for Sundin for 2 years is not unreasonable in today's environment. He seems to be healthy and there has been no "large" drop off in his play in the last couple of years.

Also, if the Leafs are going to make this investment in Sundin, then at least go out and get him a young winger who can score, so that the investment isn't wasted.

I would suggest Scott Hartnell.

At 11:11 p.m., June 11, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

James, sad to say, but in today's NHL with the cap going up to possibly $52 million, $5.75 million per year for Sundin is probably not unreasonable.

I'm not even arguing that it is. What I'm asking is: Is it the right move to keep Sundin?

Honestly, shouldn't the Leafs aim for a younger core, bring in a few younger, cheaper players and build something around that? Hartnell would be a good place to start, provided his price doesn't get bid way, way up.

At 11:47 p.m., June 11, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

James, Toronto - even with Sundin on the roster - is not an old team. If you go to you will see that Toronto's average age last year was 27.68, 14th youngest in the NHL, just below the league average of 27.89.

Anahiem, who everyone says is a young team is older than Toronto at 27.99, ranking 17th youngest in the NHL.

Its all a matter of balance, as Anahiem has shown, mixing its young talent with older veterans like the Neidermeyers and Selanne who can still produce results proportionate to their salaries.

Now if Toronto had a whole bunch of forwards in the 30 to 35 age range I would agree with you about replacing Sundin. However, the opposite is true with Toronto, which has a lot of youth on its offence.

Also, where would you get someone younger who could replace this offence at a reasonable price? The price of young free agents (27 to 30) is through the roof. Obviously, all the GMs have agreed not to give offer sheets to other teams Restricted Free Agents. And, other teams are reluctant to trade away talented younger players, as they are extremely valuable in a "capped" world.

The only way to get younger is slowly and patiently through the draft and the farm system, which John Ferguson Jr. is doing. In the interim you need to hold onto key older players who can still produce results proportionate to their salary.

At 12:29 a.m., June 12, 2007, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

Sundin has been the most consistant and bankable player in the NHL throughout most of his career. No matter what the circumstance, Sundin generally stays healthy and produces a point a game. I'd pay for that kind of 'guarantee' (as much as you can get). Even at 37, Sundin is still an effective player and doesn't appear to be slowing down.

Don't blame Sundin for the Leafs failure to win the big one. It's like Blues fans blaming Hull for not winning them the cup, despite all he did for them.

Stepping back, re-signing Sundin looks like a good hockey decision.

At 1:21 a.m., June 12, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Pete, Frank, Jes, other gathered guests...

No one has said Sundin is not worth $5.75-million. That's not the question here. What we need to establish is, if we were Mr. John Ferguson, what would we do?

Granted Sundin is still a healthy, productive old bugger and he will help the team perform, well, just about as well as last season, presumably. But his productivity goes out the window at the end of a two-year term, at which point this team will still not be a contender.

What I propose is that if that's where the Leafs want to head, they should move out of the Sundin/condo/jersey-selling era and usher in the truly dismal Leafs: a rebuilding effort that actually, you know, rebuilds in earnest.

The team's prospect pool remains mediocre and its goaltending hopes are pinned on a youngster who's not taking this team to the playoffs, let alone a championship.

It's time to start over. Keeping Sundin hanging around, when he clearly wants to play for a winner at this stage of his career, isn't the answer.

The Leafs can't win now on this path.

At 2:36 a.m., June 12, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Keeping Sundin hanging around, when he clearly wants to play for a winner at this stage of his career, isn't the answer."

Is that obvious?
Certainly he'd prefer to play for a winner but I see precious little sign it's an overwhelming desire.
He seems to be more then happy to resign in Toronto, all but assuring he won't be with a contender.
He may well be taking less then what he could make as an UFA to sign in Toronto-with a team that won't contend.
He's spent the last few years reiterating his claims that he'd rather stay in Toronto then win the cup elsewhere.

Not exactly the actions and comments of someone that clearly wants to play for a winner.
A preference certainly, everyone would obviously prefer to be with a winner. But not a preference thats having even the slightest impact on his actions.

From all appearances playing for a loser in Toronto holds significantly more appeal then playing for a winner.

At 9:00 a.m., June 12, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Sundin isn't happy playing for a losing team but he loves the city and the club so he doesn't want to be like Bourque and make a move to win an empty Stanley Cup.

As Pete said, you couldn't let Sundin go, replace him with a younger version and make the team a winner. Meanwhile, if he stays you have his influence on an increasingly young set of forwards plus as Jes said, his almost guaranteed point per game contribution.

Plus, he is the key to getting anything out of Antro and Pony and making their contracts look good.

At 9:13 a.m., June 12, 2007, Blogger E Colquhoun said...

If you move Sundin who takes his place? There is no one, on the team right now, who can be legitiamtely seen as the "heir apparent" to being the #1 centre.

At 10:05 a.m., June 12, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

The Leafs problems don't involve our offense. This would be a much better analysis if it were focused on the money pits of Bryan McCabe and Pavel Kubina, who earn over $10m combined and didn't contribute enough offensively to make up for their braindead play around the Leafs' net.

I think the first step is that the Leafs offer Bryzgalov something around $2.5 a year and make him and Raycroft fight for the number one spot. I don't think either of them are an all star #1 goalie, but I think both of them could carry the load together.

At 11:22 a.m., June 12, 2007, Blogger ninja said...

What we need to establish is, if we were Mr. John Ferguson, what would we do?...But his productivity goes out the window at the end of a two-year term, at which point this team will still not be a contender.

So, the essence of what you are getting at is Sundin needs to be traded while he is still valuable to re-stock the franchise with younger talent, a la the deal that brought Sundin to the Leafs in the first place. Right?

JFJ's forte isn't the big deal, so I doubt he'll do such a thing. MLSE has forbid the idea of a full-on rebuild (which isn't a guarantee of success), preferring the rebuild on the fly approach, which actually has a better track record than the full-on rebuild.

There are a few players that would be worth Sundin, but their present teams would be stupid to trade them away. Lecavalier, Getzlaf, Kopitar, Bergeron, Vanek, Frolov, Zetterberg, Nash, Latendresse come to mind as future franchise players, but if I had their rights, I'd sure as hell want more than Sundin. Sundin's value is maxed at the deadline, so that is the only time he should be traded, to a team desperate for success NOW. Otherwise, the return for Sundin won't be worth it, unless JFJ can steal a player from under another GM's nose.

JFJ's plan of building the infrastructure of the team is the best course of action for the team in the long term. Icing a team that can compete for a play-off spot in the interim is the best course of action in the short term, and having Sundin around for that makes sense.

Would I like a chance at a first over all pick? Sure. But picking in the first half of the first round can yield some pretty good talent as well, which the improved scouting department should increase the odds of finding the best player available. And if the team that young talent goes to is improving its overall philosophy and approach, then that talent should flourish.

I hope.

At 12:45 p.m., June 12, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

1 year at $5.5M with a no-trade clause. He saves the Leafs $800K with this deal which should definitely come in handy if the cap is at $48M.


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