While teams were chomping at the bit to splurge on unrestricted free agents on July 1, the atmosphere for restricted free agents has been very different.
Tampa Bay Lightning fans agonized over every ridiculous (and even maybe the occasional semi-legitimate) rumor about Steven Stamkos before he was finally re-signed to an “everyone wins” deal. While talks of a stalemate between Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators might amount to his agent’s posturing, there’s a genuine concern that his contract negotiations might hamper the team’s ability to keep its “Big Three” in Tennessee. It’s even tough to praise Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi for his shrewd series of off-season moves because he still needs to sign Drew Doughty to what might be a legacy-defining contract.
One player who might fly under the RFA radar a bit (except in Toronto, of course) is Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn. While Schenn’s game leans far more toward defense (he lead all NHL defensemen in hits during the 2010-11 season with 251 and was the team’s leader in shorthanded ice time) he really captured a lot of hearts when things were especially bleak during his 2008-09 rookie season. Maybe worries haven’t reached a fever pitch because the Leafs signed most of their free agents already and the team showed far more promise in 10-11 – or perhaps because rival general managers simply aren’t sending offer sheets these days – but Schenn’s situation might remain a concern for some Leafs fans.
Then again, when you consider context, Schenn’s stalling situation might have as much to do with his representation as it does with his asking price. Schenn is represented by big-time agent Don Meehan, who has plenty on his plate this off-season since he also represents the likes of Stamkos, Doughty and Zach Parise. (Maybe Schenn needs an agent with a more personal, Jerry Maguire-like approach?)
When asked about Schenn’s negotiations, Meehan told the Toronto Sun that a deal probably won’t get done until next week … or maybe even later next month.
“It’s more of an August issue,” Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, said on Tuesday.
Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle is probably going to be one of the point men in contract negotiations with Schenn, and he is on vacation.
Considering Brian Burke’s burgeoning fleet of assistant general managers, the Leafs should probably be able to get a deal done sooner or later. They should be able to get a solid deal considering comparable restricted free agents (Meehan probably hopes the name “Karl Alzner” doesn’t come up too often). Yet even if he proves to be a tough nut to crack, the Leafs should have at least $5.2 million in cap space to work with. They’ll want to save some of that for trade deadline flexibility, but the takeaway is that Schenn probably won’t be playing anywhere else anytime soon.