The past five or six years have been pretty tough on fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The franchise has had difficulty drafting and managing the team, which has led to a lack of performance on the ice.
One aspect involved with team management is the control of contracts and free agents. It seems that every time Toronto signs a player from the free agent market, the player fails to impress.
A number of players have had their performances decline upon arrival in Toronto. The names of Jason Blake, Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek and Jeff Finger all come to mind when discussing those who fall under this category.
However, there has been a player recently claimed from off of free agency who has not only met his expectations for this season, but exceeded them.
Clarke MacArthur was signed by the Maple Leafs for a measly $1.1 million from the Atlanta Thrashers. This signing came after the Thrashers refused to cough up the $2.4 million owed to MacArthur following arbitration.
MacArthur was expected to join the team as an extra player who could maybe contribute 35-40 points. Factor in that he's joining the squad as a free agent, and you've pretty much set yourself up as a bust in Leafland.
However, thus far he has smashed those expectations by posting an impressive total of 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in just 44 games, placing him in first on the team in points.
Those totals set him on pace for 26 goals and 68 points, a breakout season by any definition. His previous highest point total was 35, which he posted last season.
This surprising success was founded on a line with feisty center Mikhail Grabovski and solid winger Nikolai Kulemin. The three together have joined to form the "Misfit" line, Toronto's highest producing group this season.
While both Grabovski and Kulemin play integral parts on the line, MacArthur has proven time and time again that he is, in fact, the glue that keeps the trio together. His precise passes, solid two-way play and consistent point production have helped him become one of the Leafs' best players in 2010-11.
With this vast improvement in play, one must wonder where the future lies for MacArthur. He has stated that he would like to, if possible, stay in Toronto for the long-term. A long-term deal is probably illogical at this point, but the Leafs will likely try to re-sign their star player. However, the major question is this: Is one breakout season enough to operate on when offering a long-term deal?
With that in mind, it has been speculated that a shorter deal is likely. Could the $2.4 million MacArthur was robbed of last summer be a possible reward this summer?
His new contract will largely depend on his play in the second half of the season. However, if there's one thing I can assure you of, is that he'll be making much more than $1.1 million in 2011-12.