With the last Shea Weber-sized domino of salary arbitration down, the NHL off-season is in near-shutdown mode. That doesn’t mean that every agent and GM can kick back and sip on umbrella-adorned cocktails until training camp kicks back up, though.
There are still a number of significant restricted free agents who need new contracts (but don’t have the deadline pressure of a pending arbitration hearing). While Los Angeles Kings phenom Drew Doughty is the most obvious example, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn also finds himself without a deal for 2011-12.
This would be a far more nerve-wracking situation if NHL GMs possessed the bravado to send offer sheets to opposing teams, but since that isn’t going to happen, this is probably just a matter of time. To give the situation a college student analogy, a world of offer-sheets would make the lingering Schenn situation as stomach-churning as a high school sweetheart spending a semester abroad in Spain.* Without that offer-sheet threat, the stress level is downgraded to “Uh oh, that 10-page paper is due in two weeks, I better at least get started.”
It looks like the Maple Leafs and Schenn’s representatives are starting to type up that outline again. Sean Fitz-gerald of the National Post reports that the two sides have resumed negotiations this week.
Schenn is represented by Newport Sports Management Inc., the agency founded by Don Meehan. Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle handles most contract talks for the team.
“We had a discussion with Claude Loiselle today, and we’re going to have another one tomorrow,” Meehan said Wednesday. “So our discussions are ongoing.”
Because Schenn is not arbitration-eligible, there is no real deadline for a new contract aside from the absolute, worst-case scenario, which requires him to be playing by Dec. 1. If he does not have a contract by then, he would not be eligible to play in the 2011-12 season.
Could Schenn’s contract disputes stretch past that December deadline? I’d put the odds at “Zero x Dan Cloutier’s chances of making the Hockey Hall of Fame.” (Translation: “No, it won’t stretch past that deadline.”)
Schenn isn’t a prolific force offensively, which is probably why his negotiations aren’t getting anywhere near as much attention as Weber or Doughty’s (aside from in Toronto, maybe). Mere scoring stats aren’t the best way to capture his impact on the Leafs, though. It’s his defensive steadiness that makes him a genuine asset; his 251 hits topped all NHL defensemen in 2010-11 and he was Toronto’s leader in penalty kill time. He also became something of a beacon of hope during his rookie season, when Maple Leafs fans didn’t have much of a bright side to look on in 08-09.
It’s hard to say how much Schenn might get paid since defense-first guys can be a little bit tougher to quantify at the bargaining table. The Maple Leafs have plenty of cap space to work with right now, so again, they should be able to get something done … even if it takes an all-night, caffeine-packed cram session.
* – Seriously, I pity anyone who must fight off the mental images of countless impeccably dressed Lotharios wooing their soul mates with their exotic accents. That’s pure stress, folks.