One of Brian Burke's top priorities this summer is Clarke MacArthur. After a breakout season, the Leafs will have to decide to either keep MacArthur or allow him to test the free market.
This topic has been beaten to death by Leafs fans, but I find the main question around the winger has been what his value is in terms of dollars. However, I find exploring the question if MacArthur is replaceable or not to be much more accurate when deciding to keep him or not.
So, is Clarke MacArthur replaceable?
To start off, anyone is replaceable. If you traded Ilya Kovalchuk for Marian Gaborik (in terms of production), you probably won't see much difference. The same goes if Steven Stamkos replaces Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim, or to a lesser extent, if P.K. Subban replaces Mike Green.
However, the factor that determines if a player is replaceable or not, is not how you are going to, it's who's out there, who is available.
I figure the best way to determine if it's worth it to risk another contract on MacArthur and to figure out if he's replaceable is to look at what's available.
Let me get this straight—Clarke MacArthur IS replaceable. He posted up 62 points, not exactly godly numbers. However, we can't determine if MacArthur is replaceable or not through trade, because that market is unpredictable. And we certainly can't guess if Mac is replaceable or not compared to the future, because for obvious reasons, the Leafs need to win now.
So, if we were to let Clarke MacArthur go, who's readily available to take his spot, from the free market? Here are a few names:
Simon Gagne—Gagne seems to the best potential replacement, simply because if with the right players, can post first-line numbers. However, his salary demands are likely to be too high for the type of durability he has and the role he'd be playing with the Leafs. I can't justify paying $5 million-plus for 60 games of second-line hockey, can you?
Alexander Frolov—Here's another no, simply because his offense is too erratic. He has scored 30-plus goals twice in his short career, and has strung together five consecutive 50-plus point seasons before falling off the face of the Earth last year. However, there are many flags on the Russian; he's noted to be a dressing room cancer, and has durability issues as well, only once playing a full season in his eight-year career.
Michael Ryder—This is simple: too inconsistent, and doesn't offer much more than his periodic offensive game. All this added together equals another, "no".
Radim Vrbata—Where has this guy gone? Oh, he's played for Phoenix (sorry, had to throw that in there). He's quietly posted two 20-goal, 40-point seasons while in Arizona, and his defense is pretty respectable too. However, trading in a potential 60-point, two-way winger for a 40-point winger with an okay defensive-game seems illogical to me.
Tomas Fleischmann, Brooks Laich, Alex Tanguay—I grouped all these three players together because to me, they could be replacements for Mac. They all are capable of posting 20-plus goals, 55-plus point seasons, all have defensive sides and can play with more versatility than Clarke (in terms of positions).
The one flag on these three is price. Laich and Fleischmann are likely to seek upwards of three million, the spot where MacArthur is likely to cap out on. Tanguay could seek above three million too, especially after his almost 70-point resurrection in Calgary last year.
Another factor I discussed in one of my other articles is that I view these three players as more of add-ons than replacements. However, if they were replacements, would spending an extra half a million on virtually the same player be worth it?