The Un-Five-Million-Dollar Man
Cudda. Wudda. Shudda.
Two more losses have piled up since Leafs GM Brian Burke proclaimed that on trade deadline day he could have added four first round draft picks for players on his current roster.
In addition to the club's own first rounder, that would have made it five picks in the top 30 this June, a position of terrific possibility and flexibility.
Burke declined all of those offers, choosing the now over the future. For those who hope to see the Leafs return to post-season play sometime before global warming turns Toronto into Tahiti, perhaps it was the correct choice.
One of those first rounders, its quite clear, could have been had for centre Mikhail Grabovski, who is in the midst of one hockey's most inept salary drives at the moment. He's 27 years old, has never managed more than 29 goals or 58 points in a single NHL season (both were last year) and is unlikely to hit either total this season.
Always a streaky sort, Grabovski has gone colder than his team, and has now failed to score a goal in 14 games after missing out again in Chicago on Wednesday.
Oh yes, and he wants $5 million a year on a multi-year contract.
Well, if someone else wants to pay, let 'em pay. But it shouldn't be the Leafs.
The team that is probably already wondering whether it gave John-Michael Liles too much salary and too much term by signing him in-season to a new contract must, surely, be getting the heebie-geebies over awarding Grabovski the kind of contract he's looking for either now or as a UFA this summer.
Maybe that's what the marketplace demands. But as the second-line centre on a losing hockey team, it would be difficult to make the case that Grabovski deserves this kind of payday on anything but a pure statistical basis, i.e., other teams are dumb enough to be paying Player X and Player Y this amount, therefore the Leafs should do the same with Grabovski, who currently makes $2.9 million per season.
So much attention has been paid to Ron Wilson, and the goalies, and Luke Schenn, that guys like Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, Nik Kulemin, Matthew Lombardi and others have been able to quietly post sub-par seasons and slip under the radar.
That happens. But you don't give them a raise for it.