Joffrey Lupul is Going to be a Leaf for a While
Joffrey Lupul has been a Toronto Maple Leaf for less than two years. He came over in the Francois Beachemin trade that also netted the Maple Leafs prized young defenceman, Jake Gardiner. At the time it seemed like the Leafs were getting a top young prospect in Gardiner along with a salary-dump-bust-of-a-prospect Joffrey Lupul. He was injury prone and flailing on the 3rd or 4th lines in Anaheim even when healthy. He was making too much money to be that type of player but in order to grab Gardiner the Leafs needed to eat the salary of a player like Lupul. Or so it seemed, Lupul on the other hand, along with Burke and Ron Wilson, had other ideas. Lupul was put on the first line opposite Phil Kessel. The type of big body skilled winger Kessel needed to play with. They clicked last year to the tune of both players finishing the season at a point-per-game clip. This is the kind of chemistry the Leafs had been looking for from the top Kessel line since he got here.
With all of that said, I was a little shocked to listen to the radio today. People were upset with the contract, it being 5 years $26.25 million (all figures in USD). I understand the thinking, of maybe it was a bad gamble to take on a guy with the injury history of Lupul. That’s fair! Even though the major concerns with infections in his back have all but gone completely away without fear of return. He did get hurt again last year with a completely new issue, he separated his shoulder. So, yes, the injury-concern label is well deserved. What I was hearing on the radio however, was not about his injury concerns, sure some of it was but the parts I thought were ludicrous were when callers were saying Lupul wouldn’t be a top two line player on a playoff team. That’s crazy! The worst part about is Jeff Blair agreed, although he did defend the deal saying Lupul wasn’t a one dimensional player and could add value wherever he played. That’s nice, but, the first part is not defendable.
Lupul will be making $5.25 million per season, as a cap hit. Lupul has been just about a point per game player since joining the Leafs, $5.25million is not too much for a point per game player. What’s more, he turned Phil Kessel into a point per game player. Some will argue it was the opposite, those same people will tell you Kessel isn’t good enough to be on a top line either. The point is, BOTH players improved greatly last year on their production. That’s a GOOD thing.
So yes, the length of contract might be a little scary with Lupul’s injury history, but you are keeping a guy that clicks with your #1 player at a price that is not prohibitive at all. If the Leafs can plop down a centre between them that is big with good defensive ability and some offensive flair, instead of one with little of either, this could be a great line in hockey. And guess what, in order to lure that centre to Toronto you need players he may want to play with. Getzlaf, the centre most Leafs fans dream about this offseason, is not going to be coming here with Kulemin on one of his wings. That just makes sense, right? Even with that, there is no guarantee at all Getzlaf wants to come here.
This deal also, does NOT hinder the Leafs in free agency next year. With this deal included, the Leafs have $17.25 million (per capgeek.com), to spend next offseason. There are many coming off the books and with some cheap alternatives to take their spots, Frattin, Gardiner, Kostkas, Holzer etc… that space will not be eaten into too much. They also have the option of using their two amnesty buyouts to free up some more money. Taking out Mike Komisarek’s $4.5 million brings up the cap room to $21.75 million. That’s a ton of room to basically do whatever they want to do in free agency.
Joffrey Lupul makes the Leafs best player better. He scores goals. He is a great dressing room guy. He deals with the Toronto media well. He takes pressure off of the other leaders on this team. He is an All Star. $5.25 million per year? That’s a BARGAIN!