Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas recently said he doesn’t believe the team has any bad contracts. More specifically, what he said was that the team didn’t have deals he looked at and wished he could get rid of because they were hampering his ability to make moves or deals that he couldn’t trade if he really wanted to. That got us to thinking.
It might be true that Dubas doesn’t have any “bad contracts”, but that doesn’t mean all the contracts are good. In fact, after coming across an article from Jonas Siegel at The Athletic, entitled, “Rating the value of every Maple Leafs contract for next season“, it really became intriguing to see how many of the contracts in Toronto ranked in terms of average, good or better-than good value.
Siegel and fellow scribe Dom Luszczyszyn break down the value of each Leafs’ contracts this season. They don’t exactly use a scientific approach to determining the best bang for the buck, choosing to base each player’s projected win value next season on an open market, but the exercise is telling.
Here are a few of the results:
Frederick Andersen was given a grade right down the middle and classified as “worth his contract.” Much of that depends on if he returns to form next season, but he is still a stable starter, his cap hit tied for 11th among likely starters next season.
Jack Campbell got the same rating but for a different reason. Siegel suggests if Campbell is nothing more than a suitable backup when called upon, he’ll be leap years ahead of what the Leafs were dealing with while Hutchinson was in net.
Newly-acquired blueliner Zach Bogosian got a middle-of-the-road grade, as did T.J. Brodie. Saying Bogosian simply needs to provide some snarl, experience, and defensive know-how, he’ll be worth his $1 million. For Brodie, it’s about being an upgrade on what they’ve had on the right side in recent years.
Recently signed Mikko Lehtonen was given a value down the middle as well, mostly because the Leafs don’t know exactly what they’re going to get with the KHL veteran.
Jake Muzzin gets an average grade too. Part of the issue is that as the contract goes on, the value of it will drop. “Year One of the four-year contract he signed in February shouldn’t be a problem; years three and four could be a different story,” Siegel writes.
Morgan Rielly was one of the few defensemen to get a higher than average grade. Saying he’s got a good partner now in Brodie, that he’s healthy and less likely to face the best competition, they believe he could have a monster year. That’s good and bad for Toronto as he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
Mitch Marner was right in the middle. They admit that it can be argued he was overpaid on his second contract, but also say he’s a “rising stock who puts up elite numbers and performs in all situations.” The belief is he’ll have a bounce-back season (even though last year wasn’t all that bad.)
Auston Matthews was rated as a player who was good value and slightly out-performing the value of his contract. They write, “This could be the year Matthews vaults into the Hart Trophy conversation.” They also suggest that if there’s a knock on his deal, it’s that it was too short when signed.
Zach Hyman gets a better than grade, suggesting he could be in the running for the best value contract on the team when next season comes to a close. They called him “a top unit penalty killer and 20-goal threat.”
Of the veteran forwards the team signed — Wayne Simmonds, Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton — only Thornton got a better than average grade. Most of that grade was under the assumption that Thornton gets anywhere close to the 50-point player he was a couple of seasons ago. He may or may not do so.
What About John Tavares?
The interesting contract that didn’t do terribly well and is costing the Leafs a lot is that of John Tavares. He gets an underwhelming score that the scribes label as “not quite good value”.
Suggesting there was no way he’d live up to the massive free agent contract he signed, they’ve noted that Tavares is slowing down at the age of 30 but still being paid like one of the best players in the NHL.
The argument isn’t whether or not he’ll be productive, but if he’ll be productive at the rate he’s being compensated.
While the Maple Leafs were graded as not having any terrible contracts or ones that ranked in the author’s “no value/badly overpaid” category, only Hyman ranked with the best score possible in their grading system. That’s telling.
At the end of the day, the question will be what is better in the NHL? Is it better to have no bad contracts, or a couple really good players that far exceed their value, even if you have a couple of stinkers.
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