The Toronto Maple Leafs signed journey man winger Mike Brown to a three year 2.2 million dollar contract extension on Tuesday, and it may be the best signing Brian Burke has made so far.
“We are extremely pleased to have Mike under contract for the next three years,” Burke said. “His blend of character, energy and toughness has proven to be a good fit in the overall structure and makeup of our team.”
Mike Brown who appears to be poised for a career high in points this year, has been exactly as Brian Burke described a solid character guy who always plays with energy.
If half of the rest of the team played with the same type of passion and personality, the Leafs would never miss the post season.
Of course, that being said, some one has to do the scoring. Mike Brown is indeed on pace for a career high in points but that career high is a mere ten points.
The Toronto Maple Leafs as a whole, once again have a number of free agents to deal with this off season, and some tough decisions to be made
Here are a few that will be hot topic contracts for much of the rest of the season in Leaf Land.
Brian Burke's wisdom was once again called into question when it was announced that he had signed former Buffalo Sabre and Atlanta Thrasher Clarke MacArthur to a one year 1.1 million dollar contract this past off season.
MacArthur, though well liked by team mates and often described as a genuine energy type guy with some skill and offensive upside, always managed to not quite live up to expectations.
Upon his arrival in Toronto, MacArthur struggled for a time to define his role as did most of the team but has since become an integral part of the Leafs top line that includes Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin.
Having already eclipsed his career point total, MacArthur is now gunning for a career high in goals. Currently with 15 goals, he is just two off his career high and is on pace to score 25.
Clarke MacArthur is another one of the perfect type of player that not only fit Brian Burke's type of player but can also ingratiate themselves into the hearts of Leafs fans.
MacArthur, will command a raise this year and there is no reason to believe that at 25 years of age he can't get even a little better than he is now.
Burke will be a little gun shy in regard to a big dollar long term contract. Perhaps something in the range of three years and five million with incentives for a total cap hit of around eight million.
Tyler Bozak is on the tail end of a two year 1.75 deal that expires this season and leaves Bozak as a Restricted Free Agent
Bozak finished the 2009-2010 season with 20 points. He has already met that mark this season with 20, with 32 games left to play Tyler Bozak is on pace for 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points.
While expectations for Bozak were a little higher going into this year, he is improving and will get a moderate raise probably in the neighborhood of three or four years and three million dollars.
The much maligned John Mitchell will be another RFA that Brian Burke will have to make a tough decision about.
The under achieving Mitchell made .75 million this season and was the topic of heated debate when he signed with the team this past off season.
The value that Mitchell holds for the Maple Leafs is in that he is a center who can be called upon if needed with the Leafs but looks as though he will be a career AHL player.
After posting decent numbers in his first season with 29 points, he hasn't come close to living up to expectations.
If he has any hope of remaining with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, he will have to settle for a similar deal to the one he currently has, perhaps with a longer term.
Speedster Darryl Boyce has played 16 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs and has five points to show for his efforts.
Boyce is a gritty player who gives an honest effort every time he hits the ice, though his size may inhibit him from ever being able to make a serious run at a full time roster spot.
The left wing position is one that the Leafs have a lot of depth in and though he will be a good occasional call up, likely won't fit in the long term plans of the Leafs.
Ever evolving youngster Luke Schenn burst onto the scene in the 2008-2009 season and was immediately touted as the best defensive prospect the Toronto Maple Leafs organization had produced for a very long time.
In his second season last year, Schenn went through a sophomore slump and Leafs Nation waited and hoped for him to regain some of his rookie form this year and despite a slow start, Schenn has not disappointed.
One of the teams biggest issues this year has been offense from the blue line. Schenn is tied with Tomas Kaberle for second with two goals behind Carl Gunnarson's three.
While he is on pace to tie his career high so far in points with 17, if he hopes to become a better all around defense man, he will need to become more of a scoring threat from the blue line.
Look for Schenn to sign a deal in the area of 4 years and five million dollars with incentives.
James Reimer is having a very good season splitting his time between the Toronto maple Leafs and their AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies.
Posting fantastic numbers even in the face of a sometimes anemic Maple Leafs offense, he may in fact be the answer that both Leafs fans and players have been searching for between the pipes.
The cautionary tale of course is, he isn't the first goalie in the last several years that has been touted as such.
Reimer may be the single most important decision that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Brian Burke make this off season, make no mistake, this decision won't be mad before then.
Neither Reimer nor Burke will even want to talk until the last 32 games of the season have been played out.
An RFA this season, if Reimer plays another 10-15 games this season for the Leafs and maintains his current form, there will be much debate about whether or not he will have earned a medium term one way deal and will make the decision about re-signing Giguere much much easier.
Not lost in this debate will be the status of Jonas Gustavsson.
The Monster is seemingly fighting himself and his lack of confidence every game he plays. While he has shown flashes of what it takes to be the future of this team in the net, his in ability to mask his frustrations may have led his team mates to lose faith in his professionalism to a degree.
If Reimer does maintain his current form and two thirds of the remaining games he plays he will in fact get a one way deal and start next season as the number one goal tender of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs still have a number of both restricted and un-restricted free agents to make decisions about, including the likes of Carl Gunnarsson, Joey Crabb, Tim Brent, and Fredrik Sjostrom who all will likely receive new deals.
However, the team also has some other free agents that will require either no thought at all, such as Jay Rosehill who will not likely return. Or Tomas Kaberle whose status seems to flip flop on a more regular basis as the trade deadline once again approaches.
No matter what happens between now and the end of the season, Brian Burke is running out of time to show signs that the Toronto Maple Leafs are not only on the right path, but on any path at all.
Should the Leafs miss the post season again this year, it is a safe bet that he will fire Coach Ron Wilson whether he wants to or not.
While many including yous truly have argued that the teams failures can't be rested entirely on the shoulders of the coach, the marked lack of substantial improvement has to be.