Monday, August 16, 2010

Muskoka Five's sole survivor

The Muskoka Five refers to a core of highly paid Maple Leafs players in 2007-08 all with no-trade contracts courtesy of John Ferguson. Had management been able to trade some or all of these players at a time where they might provide maximum return, the Leafs may have completed a rebuild by now. Unfortunately none ever consented to a trade. Here are their stories.

Bryan McCabe

Bryan signed a 5-year contract with the Leafs on June 29, 2006, just 2 days before he would have become a free agent. That was based largely on the 2005-05 season when Bryan scored 19 goals and 68 points. In 2007–08, Bryan was the focus of numerous trade rumours, but he refused to waive his no-trade clause. Numerous media outlets reported that he would waive it once the Leafs paid him a $2 million signing bonus due on September 1, 2008. As such, Bryan was traded to the Florida Panthers on September 2, the day after receiving his bonus. He was sent with a fourth round draft pick in 2010 in exchange for defenceman Mike Van Ryn, in other words a big fat pile of nothing. Bryan is now captain of the Panthers, the only other team other than the Leafs not to make the playoffs since the lockout ended.

Darcy Tucker

In February 2007, the Maple Leafs and Darcy Tucker agree on a new 4-year, $12 million contract extension to begin the following season to prevent Darcy from becoming a free agent. As in the case of McCabe, Darcy was coming off a career year in 2005-06 when he scored 28 goals and 61 points. Darcy was also the focus of numerous trade rumours in 2007-08 but he too refused to waive his no-trade clause. On June 24, 2008, he became an unrestricted free agent after the Maple Leafs, bought out the remainder of his contract. On July 1, 2008, he signed a two-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche worth $4.5 million. He has since become an unrestricted free agent once again and is waiting for a contract. The Leafs will be paying him for another 4 seasons.

Mats Sundin

Mats was always opposed to be used as a rental player so he never would agree to a deadline deal to contender even if it would help him win a Stanley Cup and provide the Maple Leafs with a kick start for a rebuild. He insisted that he would only feel comfortable playing with a new team from the start of the season. So when Mats became a free agent on July 1, 2008 you would have expected that he would choose a new team by the start of training camp or at least before the season started. Surprise, Mats doesn’t sign with Vancouver until December 18 and only plays a half season. So much for his opposition to joining a team in mid-season. Today Mats is retired from hockey and recently married to Josephine Johansson.

Pavel Kubina

On July 1, 2006, Pavel signed a deal with the Maple Leafs for four years at $20 million. Pavel had a clause in his contract which allowed the Leafs to make a trade from the date of the Amateur Draft to August 15. On July 1, 2009, Pavel was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers with the rights to Tim Stapleton for Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart. In the hockey business they call this a salary dump. On July 2, 2010, Pavel returned to the Tampa Bay Lightning signing a two year contract valued at $7.7 million total.

Tomas Kaberle

Tomas is on the last year of his contract which also has a clause that allows the team to trade him from the date of the Amateur Draft to August 15. In 2008, prior to the trading deadline the Leafs had a trade worked out with Philadelphia which would have landed them Jeff Carter and first round draft pick for Tomas. He refused to go. Last summer while there was an opening to make a trade, Brian Burke thought he had a deal for Phil Kessel and a first round draft pick for Tomas. The problem was that Boston thought it was the Leafs that were throwing in a draft pick. The deal never happened and instead the Leafs grossly overpaid to land Kessel. This summer again the Leafs attempted to deal Tomas but couldn't get the return they were expecting. Obviously Leafs had no long term plans for Tomas but that didn't stop them from over-pricing him. As a result he will likely leave at the end of this season as a free agent for nothing (see Mat Sundin above)

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