BY MICHAEL GARDNER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
The Toronto Maple Leafs trade Joffrey Lupul to…
How does that sound Leaf Nation? It’s not that Lupul hasn’t performed. He has. It’s not that Lupul doesn’t demonstrate character. He does. It’s not that other teams wouldn’t love to have him. They would. It’s that he makes the most sense for the Leafs to part with. While many fans are growing optimistic at the thought of having a Lupul – van Riemsdyk – Kessel potential first line, optimism shouldn’t replace reality. While my view on reality may be challenged, from where I sit the prospect of Lupul being a Leaf beyond this season seems about as real as finding Bigfoot. And the Leafs desperately need a proven goaltender, like, for example, Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks.
In a previous blog, I noted that with just an average improvement between the pipes, the Leafs would have finished the season with a positive goal differential and that would have resulted in a very realistic chance at a playoff spot. Further, a quick look at the UFA goaltender signings this season shows that there aren’t many left available. Looking beyond this season and panning the 2013 UFA shows that the pickings are slim. Like a great house in a desirable neighbourhood, good goaltenders just don’t hit the market that often. Many, like Jonathan Quick, are being locked up under long term deals which will prevent them from coming to the market at all.
To acquire Luongo, who has limited his market via his no trade clause, it is still going to take a significant asset and salary cap to move the other way. Lupul earns $4.25 million against the cap and fits the bill nicely. I’m not at all suggesting that this would be the offer that seals the deal. I am however suggesting that if you want a player like Luongo or someone with a similar resume, get used to the idea of not having Lupul in blue and white.
If you happen to be in the camp that wants a Bobby Ryan or a Rick Nash instead of a goaltender, all of that applies as well. Except, it will probably take a lot more in a package to land them. The simple reality is that if the Leafs aren’t prepared to part with a young player like Jake Gardiner, 28-year-old Lupul is the next best option.
Crazy you say? One of the Leafs’ best players? Building block? Cornerstone? Sure. But if you recognize that Lupul becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, the picture changes. If you recognize that Lupul has a negative history with new coach Randy Carlyle, he of recent multi-year coaching contract fame, the picture starts to get a little clearer. If you recognize that Lupul maintains a home on the west coast and LOVES California, that picture is approaching standard definition quality. And if you look at a map and see that Vancouver and Anaheim are on the west coast, that picture is now being shown in beautiful 1080p high definition.
You’ve got to give something to get something and in this case that something might not be the Leafs’ to give in a year. Best to accept that it will be a challenge to re-sign him and parlay it into something which will help the team over the long term.
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