Toronto Maple Leafs Come to Terms with RFA Carl Gunnarsson

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Toronto Maple Leafs Come to Terms with RFA Carl Gunnarsson
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The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that defenseman Carl Gunnarsson has come to terms with the club on a two-year deal.

Terms have not yet been officially released, but reports suggest the amount is in the $1.3 million range, and is a one-way deal.

If the reports stand true, this would be an accomplishment for Brian Burke and Dave Nonis (who's handled the majority of talks between the two parties), as many analysts suggested Gunnarsson could receive up to 2.5 million.

The defenseman is a key piece of the Leafs' defensive corps, but has seen his ups and downs of his two NHL seasons. A short term deal like this one provides the perfect amount of time to see if Toronto has an eventual replacement to Tomas Kaberle's missed services on the power-play.

The deal is no risk involved at all, because should Gunnarsson falter, another team would surely be willing to take a chance on a relatively young, offensive defenseman through a trade or the Leafs would just bury/bench him.

A cap hit near a million isn't anything to lose sleep over.

Gunnarsson posted 15 points with a plus-8 rating in 43 games during his impressive rookie season. The defenseman entered this season as the heir apparent should Tomas Kaberle be traded, but faltered. He posted eight points and a -2 rating through his first half of the season (30 games played, only played 68 total).

However, he justified receiving an extension himself by drastically picking up his game in the second half, where in 38 games he recorded 12 points and an even rating while logging almost 23 minutes of ice time, compared to the 14 minutes he was seeing before.

The Swedish defenseman participated in the 2011 IIHF World Championships, and despite only posting two points in nine games, he showed strong defensively, posted a plus-5 rating while logging around 18 minutes of ice time.

His once-lacking positional play was also much improved in the international tournament, and looked to benefit from not being counted on as heavily offensively.

Gunnarsson's expectations shouldn't be as lofty going into this season, as it's expected Burke will try to sign a puck-moving defenseman from free agency for the No. 1 power-play unit.

This would leave Gunnarsson to craft his offensive game on the second power-play unit, until he's ready to take on the role full time.

Either way, there is no risk to the deal, and should Gunnarsson blossom offensively, even for the short term, the Leafs could really reap the rewards.

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