I have never been completely convinced that Brian Burke has been comfortable being an NHL GM. His latest move may have just confirmed this.
After sacking Ron Wilson a mere few days ago, Burke has recently signed center Mikhail Grabovski to a contract extension worth $27 million dollars over a five-year frame. The new deal will see Grabovski earning an average of $5.5 million during this time.
Don't get me wrong; Grabovski has put up great numbers this year. He currently has 20 goals and 25 assists and is on pace to finish with 68 points this season. He is someone that you do want to lock down and keep on your club.
But for five years at that cap hit? Didn’t we learn anything from the Ville Leino contract?
Grabovski was considered trade bait at one point and though his overall output will be solid this season, he can be inconsistent. Up until his two-goal performance against the lowly Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, he had not registered a goal in 14 straight games.
He is not the team's No. 1 center, and it’s rare that you would see a No. 2 center with that kind of pay-day for that long of a period.
The trade deadline was relatively quiet, and a number of people are speculating that it is because the collective bargaining agreement expires in September. A lot of teams were very hesitant to add any bulky contracts. Sure, Jeff Carter was dealt, but other than that, you did not see any major moves.
So now, Burke has added another pricey contract to a group of unproven talent. This will be the sixth forward on the payroll next season making over $3 million. Other than Phil Kessel, those players are Tim Connolly, Joffrey Lupul, Matthew Lombardi, Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong.
Is that group worth that cash for a team that has not made the playoffs since the 2003-2004 season and is currently on the outside looking in?
Grabovski is now 28, and time will tell how he plays into his 30s. Although streaky at times, he has posted consistent 20-goal seasons. He is a fine player, but even if he tested the open market, it is hard to imagine that he would get that kind of coin elsewhere.
While Grabovski and his agent should be very pleased, how is the Leaf's upper brass handling this move? How many risks has Burke taken in the last few years that have not panned out? Was the wrong guy fired?
It is befuddling that Burke is not on the hot seat in Toronto. Perhaps this will be his last significant move in what is turning out to be a very dark chapter for this storied franchise.
Thanks for reading.