Every Thursday, Damien Cox answers your Maple Leafs questions. Click here to submit your question. This week: plenty of Ryan Smyth fallout, including his name on a potential Leafs shopping list.
Q: Any idea if the Leafs will try to sign Ryan Smyth after this season? I personally think they have no choice but to do everything reasonably possible to make this happen. If JF Jr is serious about a Cup they need another highly talented player to share the load with Sundin, and he seems the best avaliable out there. Smyth on a line with Tucker would be a great complement to the Sundin line. I also feel the Leafs should buy out the remaining year on Hal Gill's contract. I think it's time to cut the loss on Gill, who obviously is not suited to the "new NHL". One of their younger defenceman like Kronwall could easily fill his spot, and do a better job.
Steve McKerral, Ottawa
A: Whether it’s Smyth or somebody else, I do believe the Leafs will go out and go hard for a marquee forward this summer given that they will have $10 million or more to play with. The choice will be whether to use that money to chase a centre – Daniel Briere, Chris Drury – or a winger such as Smyth, Jason Blake, Keith Tkachuk or Bill Guerin. Many of these players were, of course, available at the trade deadline, and getting them for free (no draft picks or prospects) is a lot more attractive to a team like Toronto.
Re Gill, he has two years remaining on his deal, not one. And at about $2 million per, he’s reasonable value for the dollars, although I understand some don’t like his game. When you consider St. Louis is paying Jay McKee $4 million, Gill seems a relative bargain and I believe, like Kubina, he hasn’t been nearly as bad as some have suggested this season.
Q: The Ryan Smyth trade is certainly very shocking. I'm a huge Leafs fan and he's my favorite player out there. One thing I'm confused - why did the Smyth team reject the Oilers offer - 5.4 mill when they wanted (I think) 5.6. Why should a difference of 200,000 against millions factor in Smyth's decision?
Glenn Devlin, Phoenix, AZ
A: I’m not sure it was that simple. I think Smyth came down and the Oilers came up, but two factors came into play. First, Smyth was determined not to give the Oilers a “home town discount,” so he undoubtedly drew a line he wouldn’t cross. Second, I believe he never thought they’d trade him because of his attachment to the team and importance in the community. It’s always tricky to evaluate these negotiations after the fact unless there’s an agreed-upon set of facts. Otherwise, each side is just giving it’s own spin.
Q: Is there anything stopping the Oilers from re-signing Smyth in the off season? With the Oils and Smyth reportedly having been so close in terms of contract numbers, it looks like a no-brainer from this side of the pond.
Do you think that Smyth would still be interested in going back to Edmonton? Do you imagine that now that the Oilers have picked up a few goodies for dumping Smyth, they might be willing to up their offer come summer?
Dan Tweyman, Bordeaux, France
A: The Oilers will undoubtedly make a play for Smyth, and there’s no rule saying they can’t re-sign him in July. That said, there’s obviously poison in the water now, and Smyth’s tears would lead you to believe there’s certainly no quiet agreement in place that he’ll return to Edmonton in the summer. Moreover, once the market gets going, it’s quite possible the number for Smyth may go north of $6 million.
Q: Hey Damien, A simple question, so I'll be Brief: Attendance - Down.
TV Revenue – Way down.
Salary cap - up, up, up.
How can this be?
Scott Bennett, Bishopville, SC
A: Well, let’s go through it. The NHL maintains its overall attendance is up. The league’s figures are always suspect in my mind, and what seems clear is that attendance in some cities – New Jersey, St. Louis, Florida – is really struggling. But it’s overall revenue that affects the cap, not that of individual teams.
On TV revenue, the numbers may be down, but the league’s revenue this season remains the same as it was last year. So I guess the answer is that other league revenues are improving – merchandising and sponsorships perhaps – and there’s that balancing act between the cap and the escrow number that can be used to make the cap number go up or down.
But really, I’m just as confused as you are to see that over the course of three seasons it appears the cap will jump from $39 million to $48 million. Business can’t be that good.
What is your opinion on allowing clubs in the NHL to sign one marquee player and not have that salary count against the cap. My proposal would be that each team if desired could have one player on their roster that would not count against the cap. This player as per the CBA could not be paid more than 20% of the teams salary cap. This would allow teams that can afford a little extra to go after a player to put them over the top. Just an Idea.
Sean O'Callaghan, Etobicoke
A: It’s an interesting idea that’s been tried out in other leagues. Big market NHL clubs like Toronto, Philly, Detroit and New York would love it, of course, but the majority of clubs wouldn’t mostly because it would skew the playing field. In general, while clubs may complain, all owners love the cap because cost certainty inflates the value of their franchises.
Q: Hi Damien,
I must say, your ESPN contributions have been really great lately. My question is two-fold: 1) Once the Leafs miss the playoffs this year and JFJ is fired, do you believe MLSE would go after the best possible candidate (i.e.: Lou Lamoriello or Brian Burke)regardless of their situation? Furthermore, 2) do you even believe established 'autonomous' GMs such as a Burke or a Lamirello would even consider working under the parameters MLSE generally imprisons their GMs/hockey execs to? Thanks so much.
Marc Losier, Montreal
A: Well, even if the Leafs miss the playoffs, I don’t believe Ferguson will be fired. I just don’t think he’ll get another extension.
But I’ll play along. If JFJ was canned, there’s no reason to believe the Leafs would go after the biggest fish in the pond. People will point to Bryan Colangelo, but he kind of fell into MLSE’s lap. More to the point, it was made clear to a variety of candidates last time around that nobody gets to run alone in this corporation, so the kind of autonomy you’re talking about likely wouldn’t be available to any new hockey man.
Q: So here it is, when are the Leafs going to blow this team up, you know and I know that this team does not have it to win the Stanley Cup, they were close in the early 2000's but right now their just a .500 hockey team, average at best. What can they do? They missed out on a chance to move Sundin and get some prospects and could have signed him back or signed another big name with the money from his contract, which at 9 million per season before the cap was ridiclous itself.
Second question, can this team trade McCabe or Kubina cuz 10 million or so that they have locked up in these 2 guys is a problem now and going to be a problem next few years with the cap, I know they have no trade clauses but is there a market for them, cuz again if the leafs rebuild, I am sure they would want to move to other teams as their getting up in years.
Ankur Arora, Mississauga
A: Just for clarification, Sundin’s cap number is $6.3 million, not $9 million. If they had traded him, he likely wouldn’t have returned, and their plan is to scrap the option year of his current contract and sign him to a new arrangement that will reduce that cap number for the next two or three seasons. As far as trading him, I don’t really see how that would benefit the club.
Re McCabe and Kubina, I think the recent trade deadline proved players will waive their no-trade clauses, but they want a say in where they’re going. I also don’t believe this team is necessarily locked into years of non-playoff futility. It’s whether they can win a championship on this current path that’s a more interesting question.
Q: If John Ferguson Jr. were to offer you a choice of trading away Sundin or Tucker, which would you choose, and why?
Mike Robinson, Scarborough
A: Tucker, because Sundin is by far the better player. Tucker’s only advantages are that he’s younger and cheaper, but Sundin’s a world class forward, the only one the team owns.
Q: This is perhaps old news but I think it is about time the CHL greatly improves player "salaries". I have absolutely NO vested interest. However, the current system is tantamount to exploitation. CHL owners are making extraordinary sums of $ while the worth of some franchises is escalating exponentially. All the while, players as young as 16 are paid well below the minimum wage. I understand all about education expenses but this is still a drop in the bucket for some franchises (London Knights). I believe it is time for an investigation/expose.
Ian Fairley, Orangeville
A: I have long thought this is a very curious and probably unfair way of doing business. The weekly wage for players hasn’t changed much in 40 years. What has changed is there are education packages available, but they’re not there for every player and accessing the money often has conditions attached to it. It’s an unusual system that has for a long time allowed some owners to get very rich.
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