Mike Komisarek’s poor performance since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent two years ago has led the Toronto Sun‘s Steve Simmons to opine “under normal business circumstances” management would at this point have to decide if Komisarek was worth retaining or if it would be more prudent to buy out the final three seasons of his contract.
While Simmons observed a buyout of the remaining $12.5 million of Komisarek’s contract would result in a cap hit of $1.38 million per season for the next six years, Leafs GM Brian Burke said he had no plans to go that route, noting the struggling, oft-injured blueliner’s performance had improved.
It’s not as though the Maple Leafs need to buy out Komisarek to free up cap space, as they’ll head into this summer with a little more than $36.8 million invested in 13 players and with the cap ceiling expected to rise to around $62 million for next season, that’ll leave Burke plenty of room to add experienced depth.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Burke wouldn’t consider buying out other contracts, especially those that come with negligible long-term cap hits.
The Toronto Sun‘s Terry Koshan recently reported defenseman Brett Lebda’s first season with the Leafs has been one to forget and with another season at $1.45 million left on his contract, Lebda may be considered an expensive mistake.
It’s a mistake that would be rectified with a contract buyout, which would result in a cap hit of $516,000 for next season and roughly $466,000 for 2012-13.
Another affordable route would be to bury Lebda in the minors next season. Burke did that with Jeff Finger this season, which cleared the overpaid defenseman’s $3.5 million cap hit from the NHL roster.
Burke may consider buying out the final season of Finger’s contract, which would leave the team with a cap hit of around $1.66 million per season for the next two years. Continuing to have him ride the bus with the Marlies for another season seems a waste of $3.5 million, but it’s not as though the Leafs can’t afford it.
Even with a lot of cap space, however, the lack of depth in this summer’s free agent market leaves slim pickings for Burke.
Adam Proteau recently noted Dallas Stars center Brad Richards, this summer’s best available UFA, probably won’t sign with the Leafs and suggested a better target for Burke would be Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov if he opts to test the market.
Proteau believes Bryzgalov’s presence would not only improve the Leafs goaltending, but would allow the promising James Reimer more time to properly develop. Given Bryzgalov once played for Burke in Anaheim, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Leafs GM aggressively pursued him this summer.
Proteau also believes Burke should avoid the temptation to spend up to the cap ceiling just because he can, given what little star talent will be available this summer.
Burke does have some holes on his roster to fill, especially at center, which he may have to address through the trade market. If so, he’d target cap-strapped clubs such as Philadelphia, New Jersey, Chicago, San Jose, Boston and Calgary.
DANCING WITH THE DEVILS
New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise continues to work toward returning to action before the end of the season, but his long-term future with the club remains uncertain.
Parise is a restricted free agent this summer and if he re-signs a one-year extension he’d become eligible for 2012’s unrestricted free agent market.
Given the limited cap space the Devils currently have for next season ($52.1 million committed to 17 players) speculation persists the club will consider trading Parise if it’s unable to re-sign him long-term this summer.
It’s also possible a rival club will attempt to steal him away with an expensive offer sheet, but the New York Post‘s Mark Everson recently reported the Devils are expected to take Parise to arbitration, which would make him ineligible to receive an offer sheet.
Everson also suggested this move would most likely result in a one-year arbitration-awarded contract, but the Devils may be using the tactic merely to ensure an offer sheet doesn’t enter the equation while attempting to sign Parise to a long-term deal.
FILATOV FINISHED WITH COLUMBUS?
With their playoff hopes all but dashed, the Columbus Blue Jackets will likely call up some of their promising youngsters over the last nine games to evaluate their performance at the NHL level.
According to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, Nikita Filatov won’t be among them.
Filatov, the Jackets’ highly-touted first round pick from 2008 (sixth overall), was a disappointment earlier this season in the NHL and hasn’t fared much better during an injury-shortened performance with their farm club.
Jackets GM Scott Howson said Filatov will be invited to training camp in the fall, but it’s up to the young Russian to decide if he’s finally NHL-ready. Portzline also suggested the possibility of Filatov being packaged in a larger deal for an “impact player.”
The clock is clearly ticking on Filatov’s NHL prospects. While Howson claimed he isn’t giving up on the youngster, even his famous patience will be tested if Filatov fails to impress in the fall.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.