NHL Free Agency 2013: Toronto Maple Leafs Should Have Let Tyler Bozak Walk
With the first day of NHL free agency having wrapped up, most of the big names have been signed and taken off the board.
Bozak inked a new five-year deal that will pay him an annual average salary of $4.2 million to (most likely) center Toronto's first line alongside star winger Phil Kessel.
Was re-signing Bozak the right move, however?
Sure, Bozak is good friends with Phil Kessel and signing him may help the Buds retain the American right wing beyond the 2013-14 season, but other than that, he doesn't bring much to the table.
Some people like to point to his ability in the faceoff circle.
Yet in the last three seasons, Bozak's faceoff percentage has dropped from over 54 percent in 2010-11 to 52.6 percent in 2012-13. Compare that with the faceoff percentages posted by bought-out center Mikhail Grabovski, whose faceoff percentages have been lower than Bozak's but have jumped from below 50 percent in 2010-11 to over 51 and 50 percent in 2011-12 and 2012-13, respectively.
Then there's the issue of Bozak's lack of offensive game.
Despite playing with Phil Kessel, who has been one of the league's premier point producers in the last two seasons, Bozak has only been able to manage 0.63 points per game, while Grabovski has put up 0.55 points per game.
That may seem like a reason to keep Bozak over Mikhail Grabovski, who would have eaten up more cap space, but factor in the production of each center's linemates, their time on ice and their time spent on the power play, and it isn't nearly as cut and dry.
In 2013, Bozak was on the ice during the regular season for over 20 minutes a game, fifth on the team in time on ice per game. Meanwhile, Grabovski saw the ice for just over 15.5 minutes a game, ranking 16th on the team.
Bozak was also third on the team in power-play time per game, with roughly three minutes per game (the third most on the team). Grabovski's power-play time per game? Well under two minutes (good for only 11th on the team).
Do you like the re-signing of Tyler Bozak?
As for linemate production, one need only look to Phil Kessel, who has averaged over a point per game in each of the last two seasons to understand that Grabovski was working with much less than Bozak in 2013.
Clearly, Grabovski was in head coach Randy Carlyle's doghouse this season. Why? Well, only Carlyle can answer that question.
The fact that Tyler Bozak has never reached the 50-point plateau in a full season despite playing with one of the most talented players around should really give Leafs fans pause with regard to his new $4.2 million deal.
Especially considering it meant buying out a much more skilled player who was never really given a chance under coach Carlyle's system.
The other puzzling part of Bozak's new deal is the fact that there were players like Stephen Weiss and Valtteri Filppula also available on the market, both of whom signed for just a bit more than Bozak and were also better options for Toronto.
Though he had a down year in 2013, he's still averaged more points per game over the last two seasons than Bozak (0.68) and is also a solid option in the faceoff circle (he's been over 51 percent in each of the last three seasons) and is still fairly young (only 29 years old).
Filppula's 66-point campaign in 2011-12 put the league on notice and saw him showcase his offensive potential.
Filppula's numbers may not blow Bozak's out of the water, but he's a much better offensive center, something the Leafs could use on their top line.
As for Weiss, even he has eclipsed Bozak's career high of 47 points twice while playing with the lowly Florida Panthers. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings for just $700,000 a season more in terms of cap space than Bozak.
Perhaps neither Weiss nor Filppula wanted to play in Toronto (something that seems rather unlikely—especially considering where Filppula signed), but not making a push for either of them and opting to re-sign Bozak was a big mistake.
All statistics courtesy of nhl.com.
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