For some, it boils down to this… the Toronto Maple Leafs have Wayne Simmonds and the Montreal Canadiens have Corey Perry. In what will be numerous battles in an all-Canadian division — now labeled the North Division — these two teams will meet up more than a few times. So too, these two player’s grit and nastiness will be on full display and there will probably be a few occasions where a play-by-play announcer notes how ‘hard it’s been for the Leafs to play against Perry’ — a player they could have signed.
The question will inevitably be, did the Maple Leafs make the right choice?
On Monday, Perry went to the Canadiens for a league minimum $750K. Speculation was that he would have liked to play in Toronto and the Maple Leafs had already shown a propensity for signing older veterans as a way to up their leadership quotient and bring in experience. Alas, a deal never materialized. With all that in mind, a good portion of Leafs Nation is asking today, why didn’t they sign him?
It’s hard to argue it was a cap related issue. After all, the Canadiens are over the cap with this signing and by a larger margin than the Leafs. New taxi squad rules have made it a little easier to move around salary and the Leafs have the ability to move pieces to make room for Perry, should they want to.
This was about the Leafs not feeling the urgency or wanting to sign Perry. Concern now is, it will be a decision they may come to regret.
Perry Is Arguably What Toronto Needed
Perhaps more than Simmonds, Joe Thornton or Jason Spezza, Perry has proven he can come through when it counts the most. He was a beast for the Dallas Stars who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Leafs were loaded with wingers and Perry may not bring a lot during the regular season, but there’s no denying his postseason success.
The Leafs are looking to improve their play after the regular season ends. They don’t seem to have issues getting in, but making it out of the first round has been a challenge. Perry’s teams often do what the Leafs have failed to.
His pedigree for playoff success is likely the main reason Montreal brought him in. They have been clear about their desire to not just get back to the playoffs but make waves during the postseason and general manager Marc Bergevin has not been shy about making roster changes to reflect their desire to challenge in 2020-21. Letting Perry go to a division rival for so little hurts if you’re a Maple Leafs fans.
The Leafs Now Have to Play Against Him
Again, Perry isn’t about to be an everyday difference maker. Not in the way that Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares or William Nylander will. In fact, he probably won’t do the same kind of regular season damage players like Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli or even Michael Frolik might do for the Canadiens. Still, Perry isn’t fun to play against.
There’s value in not having to see Perry bend the rules 10 times this season, or get the benefit of the doubt from the officials as he works the system and his relationships with the men in stripes and often. He’ll be in the face of Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell and the Leafs will have to account for that this season.
How much the Leafs come to wish they signed Perry will be a matter now of how the Leafs respond when the heat is turned up during games. Is this the type of signing by Montreal that injects a bit of a nasty edge into the rivalry and on both sides of the equation? Or, is Montreal the only team who gets a lot dirtier and adds an edge the Leafs have been criticized for not having?
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