The Fletcher Era: Jeff Finger

Agostino Di MariaCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2009

Looking back on the busy offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs, many fans either praise or harshly criticize the moves made by interim general manager Cliff Fletcher.

Arguments have ranged from the trading away of Bryan McCabe, the signing of Niklas Hagman, or the acquiring of rookie Mikail Grabovski from the Montreal Canadiens.

One move which continuously flies under the radar is the signing of defenseman Jeff Finger. This move definitely requires spot light, as many feel it was one of the worst signings of the NHL offseason, as well as the worst move made by Cliff Fletcher in his interim position.

Now, upon viewing this harsh criticism, I was actually tempted to just agree with the statements made by aggravated fans of Leaf Nation. When the signing was first announced, most reactions consisted of "Who is this guy?" 

I took a few steps back, however, and analyzed the situation, which led to the conclusion that the signing was indeed not necessary and will actually hurt the Leafs for years to come.

Before being signed to a four year contract worth $14 million, Finger had played a whopping 94 games in the NHL. Ninety-four games...and was brought in with a $3.5 million cap hit for the next four years.

Finger had shown some great defensive ability with those 94 games in Colorado. He had managed to put up a +22 rating within his two seasons with the club. His offensive ability, however, was not as impressive, as he managed only nine goals and 24 assists.

Furthermore, the situation with the Maple Leafs also did not show a glaring need for another defenseman. Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle, Mike Van Ryn (pending deal with McCabe), Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian White, Anton Stralman, Luke Schenn, and Staffan Kronwall were all signed on for the 2008/09 season.

Aside from all these facts, Finger's play thus far has been less then desirable. His offensive numbers have shown a slight improvement, though his defensive play has taken a huge hit when compared to his play with the Avalanche.

Finger currently sits with a -12 rating, fourth worst on the Maple Leafs. Many argue that the plus/minus rating can be misleading. Finger's actual play, however, has shown some great weaknesses, as he is easily beat by speed and struggles to win battles for the puck along the boards.

Does Jeff Finger currently have the worst contract in the NHL? Definitely not. Does he currently have the worst contract on the Maple Leafs? You can argue either way on that one.

The fact remains that Finger's contract could definitely become an issue with Brian Burke come the 2010/11 season. If an improvement is not made in his play come that offseason, Finger could very well be a victim of the waiver wire.