Toronto Maple Leafs

Jeff Finger—Is It Time For Brian Burke To Chop Off A “Digit”?

TORONTO - JANUARY 26:  Jeff Finger #4 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during the game against the Los Angeles Kings on January 26, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages / Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images
Mark RitterSenior Writer IJuly 6, 2010

With a little over $2.5 million in cap space available to them and with the Leafs still needing one, maybe two legitimate top six forwards to help round out their lineup, shouldn’t defenseman Jeff Finger be bought out already?

For months now numerous on-line writers and sportscasters from coast-to-coast have speculated that, given the Toronto Maple Leafs depth on defense, that Leafs general manager Brian Burke should, and likely would, either buyout Finger or send him down to the Leafs AHL affiliate (Toronto Marlies).

Trouble is, here we are a few days into free agency and Finger is still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs and is still slated to hit the Leafs with a $3.5 million cap hit in 2010-11—not cool!

Needless to say, given Finger’s shortcomings last season, doling out $3.5 million for a guy who, if not for his bloated salary, would have been sent packing a long time ago, is enough to make you want to chop that Finger off!

Since being signed away from the Colorado Avalanche, Finger has posted eight goals and 25 assists for a total of 33 points in 105 games as a Maple Leaf.

Finger’s offensive inequities, combined with his unwillingness to take the body at times last season means, without question, that it is high time Mr. Burke moved this “digit” out of town and made room for some much needed offense.

Another player Leaf fans would love to see get on the next airplane out of Toronto is forward Mikhail Grabovski, who, despite his upside, was a real pain in the butt last season.

Grabovski went form 20 goals and 48 points in 2008-09 (his rookie season) to ten goals and 35 points in 2009-10—not what you’d expect from a guy who rarely plays defense and seems to think he’s the next coming of Alexander Ovechkin.

At a cap hit of $2.9 million, Grabovski’s questionable contract is another one that hangs over the Maple Leafs organization like a black cloud.

While it is a bit early to give up on Grabovski, the Leafs would be wise to keep him on a short leash—keeping an eye on his on-ice effort, which was questionable at best throughout the 2009-10 season.

Both the Finger and Grabovski contracts make you want to see the NHL allow teams to buyout players without penalty.

That’s right, allow teams to buyout an NHL player at "full pop", making him a free agent with the right to sign elsewhere if another NHL team deemed him valuable.

What would be the harm? The NHL player gets his money, the team get some valuable breathing room salary cap wise and, where applicable, another NHL team could benefit from getting this player for nothing but contract money.

The reality is, if Burke is to rid his team of Finger and/or Grabovski he will have to ship them off to another NHL team (unlikely) or send them down to the AHL (expensive).

One way or another, Burke needs to rid the Leafs of Finger’s contract. Simply put, they need the cap space, because as it stands right now, this club will not score enough goals to compete for a playoff spot.

Please Mr. Burke, chop off the “digit” before it’s too late!!!!

***For more NHL news and notes check out my website (including my thoughts on the possibility trading Luke Schenn) at www.theslapshot.com

Until next time,

Peace!

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