The restricted free agent signing frenzy continued late Thursday night/early Friday as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Luke Schenn agreed on a five-year contract. TSN’s Bob McKenzie broke the news and subsequently sent all of Leafs Nation into celebration. This is all it took:
“Luke Schenn has agreed to terms with the Toronto Maple Leafs. No further details at this point but he will report to camp Friday.”
With the former 6th overall pick in the mix, the Leafs will feature a top 4 with Schenn, captain Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles, and Mike Komisarek. Newly acquired Cody Franson, Keith Aulie, and Carl Gunnarsson will compete over the final two spots—with the loser getting an all expense paid trip to the press box. Oh, hypothetically speaking, there’s Jeff Finger in the mix as well.
Schenn’s stats are never going to blow anyone over. The stay-at-home defenseman only has 12 goals and 53 points in 231 career games. But that’s not Schenn’s job in Toronto. He’s paid (and paid well nowadays), to prevent the other team from scoring, get under the opponents’ skin, and protect his teammates. This is a guy who was compared to Adam Foote when he was a first round draft pick in 2008. Colorado (or Columbus) never paid Foote for the points he was going to put on the board, right?
An important point to factor into the financial terms of the contract is that the five-year deal accounts for one of Schenn’s unrestricted free agent years. The good news for Leafs fans is that he won’t hit the open market after his seventh season in the league. However, the bad news is that he’ll hit the open market when his contract expires after his eighth NHL season.
The extra year on the contract undoubtedly bumped up the average salary per season. Even without solid contract figures, the boys over at Pension Plan Puppets wasted no time figuring out Schenn’s new contract comparables.
“A cap hit between $3.4M and $3.6M puts Schenn among the following company: Rob Scuderi, Johnny Oduya, Kris Letang, Ryan Suter, Roman Hamrlik, Nick Schultz,Willie Mitchell, Cory Sarich, Brent Burns, Matt Carle, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Viktor Hedman.
Now the Leafs (and their fans) can stop worrying about contract negotiations and start worrying about their team next season. With the likes of Schenn, Phaneuf, and James Reimer trying to keep the puck out of their own net, newcomers Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi will attempt to help Toronto improve upon the 2.60 goals per game. If both can stay healthy, they should provide a boost to the team that was in the bottom third in the league in scoring.
Scoring woes are a different problem for a different day though. The continued maturation of Luke Schenn will be imperative for the Leafs to improve next season. As much as their offense struggled at times last season, the defense was the weaker part of their overall game. The only teams with worse goals against averages were the Blue Jackets, Islanders, Oilers, Thrashers, and Avalanche. Needless to say, those aren’t exactly perennial Stanley Cup contenders.
It’s Schenn’s job to turn those numbers around—he’ll have five years to figure it out.