The clock is ticking on pending restricted free agent Clarke MacArthur and his future with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If MacArthur is not signed to a new long-term contract by Monday’s trade deadline, he is likely to be moved.
Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke must not only evaluate the value of MacArthur—who leads the team in scoring with 46 points in 61 games—but also the value of keeping Toronto’s second unit of MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin in place.
Chemistry is a very powerful thing in hockey.
Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur had never met fan expectations before this season. Now, together, all three players have surpassed the expectations of both the fans and the organization, a fact which leads one to believe that Burke would be foolish to break up the hard-working, skillful trio.
The issue for Burke is trying to quantify what MacArthur is worth. From my seat, a two- or three-year deal in the $3 million range would seem to be on point, but with a new agent in tow (Don Meehan) MacArthur may be looking to cash in big-time.
After going through arbitration with the Atlanta Thrashers last summer MacArthur was awarded a $2.4 million salary for the 2010-11 season. The Thrashers balked at the arbitrator's findings, choosing to let MacArthur become an unrestricted free agent, which led to Brian Burke picking him up at a bargain-basement price of $1.1 million.
Is MacArthur replaceable? Sure, but can anyone guarantee that MacArthur’s linemates won’t be negatively affected if they were to lose one of their wingmen? And is that something Burke really wants to risk?
One thing going for Burke is that if he cannot come to an agreement with MacArthur on a new contract, he will be able to entertain a number of trade scenarios. MacArthur’s performance this season and cheap current contract should get the attention of a number of playoff teams should he become expendable at the deadline.
In the end, Burke will probably end up re-signing MacArthur.
Burke has said publicly, "He’d like to stay." Burke went on to say that MacArthur would be "crazy not to [re-sign with Toronto], playing in a city like this with linemates [Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin] like that."
As crazy as MacArthur might be for leaving, Burke would be just as crazy not to bring the hard-working player back.
Here’s hoping Burke and MacArthur find some common ground before the February 28th trade deadline.