Sabres Setting the Price?
Today, the Buffalo Sabres have announced an extension with 25 year-old Drew Stafford worth $16M over four years, or an average of $4M per season. Last year, Stafford completed a campaign of 31 goals and 52 points through 62 games. While the Sabres had the financial ability to offer this extension, it begs to question where one Clarke MacArthur may fall regarding a potential extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There are a lot of similarities between Stafford and MacArthur. Neither have really found their groove until last season, each averaging 35+ points per season prior to their break-out campaing. But does one season breaking a 30 goal plateau warrant a player like Stafford to earn an elite level contract? Is a 30 goal season equal, or at least comparable, to a 40+ assist effort by MacArthur?
Where the difference is apparent between these two players is size. Stafford is starting to develop into a heavy hitting power forward, whereas MacArthur plays more of a finesse game and does not have the necessary size to battle and conquer his larger competitors in the corners.
MacArthur ended off his season with 62 points and lead the club for the majority of the year offensively. He concluded the year as the second highest point producer for the Leafs with a full 82 game schedule. Stafford, on the other hand, appeared in 20 fewer games, posted 10 fewer points, and also finished second on his team in scoring.
It begs to question if Stafford's deal is based on how he "could" have produced through a full 82 game season and is being paid on what he may be able to achieve over the next four seasons. If that is the case, is the $4M per season payout he'll be receiving appropriate or an overpayment, and if it falls under the category of appropriate, should Clarke MacArthur be rewarded with a $3M+ per season contract?
The Toronto Maple Leafs will certainly have a large pile of funds to play with this summer, especially with the salary cap expected to rise another $3M to $5M for next season, but is committing this contract worthwhile for the chemistry of the Grabovski - Kulemin - MacArthur line, or should it be spent elsewhere via the trade or free agency route to acquire the necessary pieces to move forward?
The most positive aspect of Clarke MacArthur's current situation is knowing he is a restricted free agent and any offer sheets will only benefit the Leafs bargaining position on an extension.
At the end of the day, the Leafs could walk away with a 40+ assist playmaker, or a collection of draft picks. I'd call that a win-win situation.