Maple Leafs Blow at High Dough: Canada Day Recap
On Monday night the Tragically Hip put on the best concert I've experienced to date.
And as I recovered from the hangover on Tuesday, I watched the Toronto Maple Leafs try to spend to a $56 million cap.
I recently wrote an article looking at some positional needs the Leafs might look to fill on the first day of free agency. I was right on all three positions, though I predicted only one player correctly.
The first Leafs' acquisition of the day made it feel like Old Home Week, with fan favourite Curtis Joseph returning to roost at his former stomping grounds.
Toronto signed the 41-year-old netminder to a one-year deal worth $700,000.
This seems like a perfect signing for the Leafs. Joseph is inexpensive, has a great attitude, has proven he can be an effective backup, and knows his role. His professionalism might be contagious in a dressing room that will feature lots of kids next year.
With a rebuilding Leafs team, Cujo will face lots of rubber too. He won't have to worry about being at the lonely end of the rink.
Jeff Finger was looking for a place to happen on Tuesday, and he certainly found it in Toronto. The 28-year-old defenseman from Colorado (6'1", 205 lbs.), an eighth round pick in 1999, is a solid stay-at-home rearguard who has battled his way through the minors to crack the big time, but he has just one NHL season under his belt.
The Leafs handed him a four-year contract worth $3.5 million per season. That's nearly a 750 percent raise over the league minimum $475,000 he earned last year.
Now, I like Jeff Finger and he looks like a solid addition to the Leafs' blueline. But this contract makes me want to weep. You'll never convince me the bidding on Finger was so fierce that $3.5 million was the going rate.
And when I see hard-hitting Ossi Vaananen sign with the Flyers for $1 million, well, I'd rather be pounding back a few tequilas than watching Free Agent Frenzy any longer.
Cliff Fletcher must be fully, completely confident in moving either Pavel Kubina or Bryan McCabe, because there's just no way this team can enter the season with $18.5 million committed to four defensemen.
That's not clearing the deck. That's lunacy.
Toronto's final move on Canada Day was bringing in gritty winger Niklas Hagman from the Dallas Stars. The Finn is coming off a career year of 27 goals and 41 points, and plays with typical Finnish tenacity.
Once again, however, this signing is made questionable by the dollar amount and term. The 28-year-old had never tallied more than 20 goals or 30 points before last season, so he certainly can't be considered a bona fide top-six forward.
If anything, Hagman is Alexei Ponikarovsky with an infusion of grit. Perhaps Poni is on his way out?
Hagman made $675,000 last season, so he also gets a huge raise.
The Leafs may have a lot of cap space, but that's no reason to blow it on middling players. Hagman and Finger combined should have gotten Finger's salary.
The Leafs brought in three decent players on July 1 who should be fine additions to the roster. Joseph's contract is easily accommodated, but Fletcher overshot the runway on Finger and Hagman, to say the very least.
Perhaps he believes Finger has untapped potential, but that doesn't seem likely for a 28-year-old defenseman. Of the three new contracts, his certainly is the darkest one.
Until yesterday, I had been thrilled with the direction of the Toronto Maple Leafs under Cliff Fletcher. Now I want to break his fragile, little bones.
And maybe the Tragically Hip can get behind anything, but I can't get behind the Leafs blowing high dough.
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