Friday, August 9, 2013


Justin Smith

This may be old news, heck this may be redundant even, but the fact of the matter is that if the Toronto Maple Leafs had not signed David Clarkson they could have had both RFAs signed by now.

Again this is probably old news, but I don't think I have ever analyzed a signing this team has made so endlessly regarding their cohesive future. If you look at the contract, you either hate it to bits, or you accept its merits. The fact remains that in order to sign one of the free agents from this years crop of players, you were going to have to 'show them the money' so to speak. I'm not here to say that Nonis is an awful General Manager or that Clarkson is a bad player. As a matter of fact, I initially supported the signing because the Leafs have been lacking a true power-forward with scoring ability for at least half a decade now. Like I said before, I have had a few weeks to look at this signing and I have one question to management:

Why did this signing need to happen?

Dave Nonis is a good GM, he has history to that fact, and anyone who says he has ruined the Leafs does not understand hockey in the least. I will be the first to admit that the Clarkson signing may have been a mistake regarding contract priorities but its a pointless argument. Clarkson fits, plain and simple. Will that be enough? Only time will tell.

But lets get back to 'contract priorities' and how they relate to the signing itself. It is my opinion that before they signed Clarkson there are three names you should be looking at first:

1. Phil Kessel

2. Nazem Kadri

3. Cody Franson

What are this team's concerns going forward?

They have never had a player finish in the top five in NHL scoring since Mats Sundin. With Kessel, you may have that for many years to come, with him being so young. Trading him would be the worst thing to do going forward. You would spend the next 5-10 years looking for a winger of his ability and a player of his calibre. If you want to talk about ongoing concerns, look no further than down the middle. I could get into the Bozak signing but I would be typing for the rest of the night then. I will accept it though, as long as it endears Kessel to staying in Toronto.

If you think that Nazem Kadri does not have a chance to become the number one centre the Leafs have been searching for, you didn't watch the Leafs last season. I may be incredibly biased but any young player with a true chance of a season to play with other star players, has two hat-tricks, and made people around him better in every situation, has had an excellent season. Could he flounder next season, of course; that doesn't mean he isn't your greatest asset up the middle. Nonis' biggest mistake may be not organizing his cap around Kadri to begin with. I mean, look at the situation as it stands. Are you confident that he will get signed without something stupid happening?

Now we come to the most annoying part of this discussion. The fact that Cody Franson has not been signed yet is a travesty. Not because he is a superstar but simply because the Leafs D-core is probably one of the worst on paper when you want to talk about playoff teams. I mean the option now is having to doup someone into trading for John Michael Liles. So let me get this straight, now Nonis needs to trade assets in order to sign a 'need' in Franson? How about Phaneuf? Is he worth 7 million? NO! That doesn't change the fact the Leafs need him badly.

Bottom line:

These three players needed to be on this team before Clarkson was. I would even have to say before Dave Bolland was traded for as well. I'm sick of the comparisons to Wendel Clark that Clarkson is facing. I realize it is media driven. And I won't say anything bad about the cover above as they are my former employer but i think it may be a little pre-mature. The only positive I can see regarding management of contracts this summer, is that there still is a chance for things to turn out better than expected. If Nonis can get both RFAs signed and have Clarkson, I would say it was a successful summer. Whether or not Clarkson lives up to his contract...well let's just say that an article for another day or two or three.

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