Toronto Maple Leafs: Reasoning Behind the Colby Armstrong Buyout

John B Matheson@@JB_WebberCorrespondent IJune 30, 2012

VANCOUVER, CANADA - FEBRUARY 18: Kevin Bieksa #3 of the Vancouver Canucks falls to the ice after colliding with Colby Armstrong #9 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period in NHL action on February 18, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

The Maple Leafs announced today that they would be buying out the remainder of oft-injured Colby Armstrong’s contract.

Armstrong responded to the news on his Twitter feed where he thanked the fans of Leaf Nation. The forward also commented on his injury-laden career in Toronto.

Over the last two seasons in Toronto, Armstrong managed to play only 79 games, tallying nine goals and 26 assists.

He may not have been a prolific scorer, but he was never intended to be. Armstrong’s physical play is why Toronto obtained the winger.

Unfortunately, injuries slowed down his game, which caused many fans to start asking for a trade or buyout for the 29-year-old winger.

While Armstrong may have enjoyed playing in Toronto—and when healthy, the Leafs seemed to play better with him in the lineup—too many injuries brought about the buyout.

While many analysts went to their Twitter feeds to mention the Leafs latest move, commentator Joe Yerdon mentioned a possible Brandon Prust deal.

The Rangers forward signed a two-year deal in 2010 for $1.6 million per year. He had 46 points during that time with the Rangers.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

If the Leafs can work out a deal with Prust, it would fill a gap left by Colby Armstrong.

Prust is one of the rare players that can both score and fight; in the 2010-11 season he was one of seven players to have 10 fights and 10 or more goals.

OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 23:  Chris Neil #25 of the Ottawa Senators and Brandon Prust #8 of the New York Rangers fight in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Place on April 23, 2012 in
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

A deal for Prust may cost in the area of $2-$3 million, which some fans may feel is too much. Obtaining a tough defenseman who can score could be what the Leafs are looking for.

With Toronto looking to get tougher, the addition of Prust would be an asset.

The other player that the Leafs are looking at is young prospect Justin Schultz. On June 28th, TSN reported the short list of teams that Schultz is interested in, which included Toronto.

Schultz is 21 years old and has yet to play at the NHL level. He was drafted by Anaheim in 2008 and chose to play for the University of Wisconsin.

At the end of May, Schultz de-registered from the University, which gave the Ducks 30 days to sign or trade him as per the rules of the NHL.

With the first day of free agency opening tomorrow, Schultz will be on the open market. Of the five teams named, only one is based in the US, the New York Rangers.

It is apparent that Shultz wishes to play in Canada.

If the Leafs can make a deal with him, he will have an entry level contract as per the current CBA.

Again, if Schultz opts for the Maple Leafs, expect to see him at training camp, though he will probably be among the last cut and the first called up when needed.

The buyout of Colby Armstrong makes room for both players to join the Leafs organization next season.

It makes sense to buyout a contract for a player who over two seasons has played less than a season's worth of games.

Should the Leafs manage to obtain either Schultz or Prust, it would add the ability to trade one or more of the current defensemen in a package deal for a top line center or a veteran goaltender.

Adding to their toughness with a player like Prust would add the toughness that Armstrong once brought to the team.

Schultz would be a cheap player to pick up and has a lot of promise for the future. Even if he doesn’t work out, Toronto would not have over-paid for him.

Armstrong does play in a different position than one of the two discussed above that could replace his physical play, but with the addition of JVR, the forwards will be shuffled this season.

The shuffle could see Lupul on the second line and possibly Kulemin on the third, which would mean either placing Armstrong on the fourth or attempting to trade him.

A trade would have been difficult with the amount of injuries he has had in recent years. The buyout was a good move by Toronto.

While some will be sad to see Armstrong go, Toronto is attempting to put together a better product on the ice.