There is such thing as “too good” of a deal in the free agent process.
Sometimes that much is only clear later in the life of a contract, as we’ve seen from demotions for players who couldn’t live up to their salary cap hits (such as Michael Nylander and Wade Redden). Such a feeling isn’t exclusive to unrestricted free agents, though; restricted free agents occasionally opt for salary arbitration only to find their teams unwilling to accept the verdict.
That’s what happened to star-crossed winger Clarke MacArthur when the Atlanta Thrashers walked away from his suggested $2.4 million arbitration last year, forcing the unlucky forward to search for a new home very late in the free agent game of musical chairs. He eventually settled for a drastically reduced one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs and went on to post career highs in goals (21), assists (41) and points (62).
There were some concerns that MacArthur would be headed for salary arbitration once again, especially since Leafs GM Brian Burke hinted that the winger was asking for too much money. The two sides can breathe easy after today, though, as they avoided the sometimes-awkward arbitration process by hashing out a two-year, $6.5 million deal.
That works out to a $3.25 million per year salary cap hit, a significant raise from that previous $1.1 million mark and an $850K raise from the amount that was too rich for the Thrashers. We’ll have to wait and see if MacArthur’s 2010-11 production was the result of a contract year anomaly or if he can replicate the unexpectedly nice work he produced with linemates Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin in that campaign.
It might be a bit pricey for a player with a limited sample size of success, but at least Toronto’s risk is short-term compared to, say, the four-year gambles that the Florida Panthers sent out to less productive players. Overall, it’s an acceptable deal that ranks as a slight overpayment, although it would be a nice price if he can approach the 60-point mark in each of the next two seasons.