It took a while, but it is done. Brian Burke announced a new contract with hard-hitting defenceman, Luke Schenn, early this morning. The contract fell in at 5 years worth $18M, or $3.6M per season.
Back in May, I wrote an article previewing what the Leafs RFAs would likely command this summer for extensions. Here is an exerpt I had on Luke Schenn:
Luke Schenn is very much an elite defensive defenceman and though he was often compared to one Adam Foote when he was drafted, I do believe he is far better. Schenn struggled with his skating during his sophmore season and packed on an additional 20 pounds of muscle before returning to the ice last fall. It certainly paid off, as his skating drasticly improved, as well as his ability to crush his opponents into the end boards. Schenn has become a cornerstone player to this franchise, and his rookie contract bonuses had his contract hitting the $3M range. Luckily for the Leafs, re-inking this stud blueliner will likely cost them nothing in terms of cap space as he will certainly earn a small raise of about $500K, pushing him to around a $3.5M yearly salary, effectively claiming only $500K more on the Leafs cap next season. It could very well be the best $500K the Leafs could ever commit to their salary.
It's likely the hold-up on this contract was based on Schenn's camp believing he was worth Marc Staal money ($3.95M per season) while the Leafs brass were waiting for Bogosian's ($2.5M per season) to get ironed out.
The Leafs and Schenn get some stability and long-term comfort out of the contract, and the new deal will poke its head a year into Schenn's unrestricted free agency elegibility, but it certainly works out for both sides.
The Leafs will now, officially, enter training camp with seven NHL ready blueliners under contract: Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, Luke Schenn, John-Michael Liles, Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson, and Mike Komisarek.
If ever there was a year to battle, claim and control one of the top six positions, it's this one. While some, if not most, players are pegged into their spots, it will be theirs to lose with plenty of challengers breathing down their necks, including prospects Simon Gysbers, Matt Lashoff, as well as impressive rookie tournament performers Jake Gardiner and Jesse Blacker.
The Leafs first game of pre-season begins on Monday night against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre.