Should The Toronto Maple Leafs Buyout Mike Komisarek?

June 12th, 2011 No Comments

With free agency just around the corner there has been a lot of chatter about the pro’s and cons of buying out a number of players.

Names like Chris Drury, Dany Heatley, Scott Gomez and Sheldon Souray continue to show up in reports, while, on the Toronto Maple Leafs front, the name of defenseman Mike Komisarek has found its way into a few buyout rumors.

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke brought Komisarek to the Blue and White via free agency in the summer of 2009.

At the time of the signing Komisarek had just come off an impressive season with the Montreal Canadiens which saw him lead the Habs in blocked shots (207) and hits with 191.

The Hockey News ranked Komisarek as the ninth most desirable free agent that summer, but also warned that “whichever team signs Komisarek must do so knowing it will be paying huge money to a defensive defenseman with limited offensive potential.

In retrospect, The Hockey News could not have been more right about Komisarek, as it appears as if Brian Burke badly overpaid for a player that has struggled with injuries and to find his physical prowess on the ice.

In his first season with the Maple Leafs Komisarek managed just 34 games. Komisarek was able to “bring the noise” in the early part of the season, but as the season went on injuries contributed to his unwillingness to get involved physically, which saw Komisarek finish with 85 hits and 62 blocked shots on the season.

In 2010-11 Komisarek rebounded slightly, getting into a total of 75 games, which saw him contribute 146 hits and 117 blocked shots.

For many, Komisarek has not lived up to expectations. A once feared player, Komisarek is seen by many Maple Leaf fans as more of a bit-player, a defenseman that should be in the top two pairings, who, on more nights than not, looks like a sixth or seventh defenseman—certainly not what they expected from their prized free agent signing of the summer of 2009.

As it stands now, there is a great divide amongst Leaf fans as to what to do with Komisarek. On one side, there is a lot of support for giving Komisarek another shot to rebound to his old form with the Montreal Canadiens, on the other side, many Maple Leaf fans would like to see Brian Burke buyout Komisarek or see him delegated to the AHL to play with the Toronto Marlies.

According to capgeek.com, Komisarek has three years left on his contract, carrying a cap hit of $4.5 million per season.

If the Leafs were to buyout Komisarek his cap hit would be reduced to $388,889 in 2010-11, followed by cap hits of $2,388,889 in 2012-13 and 2013-14, with three additional cap hits of $1,388,889 in 2014-15 through 2016-17.

The total cap savings over the next six seasons for buying out Komisarek would be in the neighborhood of $12 million, which, in the case of the Maple Leafs, is a ton of cap room.

SEASON SALARY CAP HIT BUYOUT SAVINGS BUYOUT CAP HIT
2011-12 $5,500,000 $4,500,000 $1,388,889 $4,111,111 $388,889
2012-13 $3,500,000 $4,500,000 $1,388,889 $2,111,111 $2,388,889
2013-14 $3,500,000 $4,500,000 $1,388,889 $2,111,111 $2,388,889
2014-15 $0 $0 $1,388,889 -$1,388,889 $1,388,889
2015-16 $0 $0 $1,388,889 -$1,388,889 $1,388,889
2016-17 $0 $0 $1,388,889 -$1,388,889 $1,388,889

Buying a player out is never ideal, that said, if Burke is going to be aggressive in the free agent market this summer and/or going forward, he will need to clear every penny possible, both now and for the foreseeable future.

If Burke wants to land a big fish UFA such as Brad Richards or trade for a big money player such as Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeff Carter, who continues to be mentioned in numerous trade rumors, he will likely need to outbid his rivals in a bidding war, of which, there should be many.

The Maple Leafs will enter free agency with a total of $39,990,000 dedicated to 15 roster players, with an additional $1,850,000 dedicated to bonuses. Assuming the salary cap goes up another $3 million from the current level of $59.4 million that leaves Burke with a little over 22.4 million with which to fill out his roster.

Of that $22.4 million, several million will go towards re-signing restricted free agents Luke Schenn, and Carl Gunnarsson, while fellow RFA’s Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur may also be resigned.

Unrestricted free agents Tim Brent, Darryl Boyce, Joey Crabb, Jay Rosehill, Fredrick Sjostrom and veteran goaltender J.S. Giguere may also get a sniff from Burke, but only at the right price—preferably low!

If we assume it will take around $6.0 million to sign the duo of Schenn and Gunnarsson and another $3.5-$4.0 million to re-sign MacArthur and Bozak, Burke would be left with approximately $12.5-$13.0 million with which to go free agent shopping.

Maple Leaf fans from coast-to-coast have encouraged Burke to go after free agent centre Brad Richards for what seems like an eternity. With the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets and others expected to make an offer to Richards, we can expect a bidding war to evolve that will likely see Richards sign for upwards of $8-$10 million per season.

If that is the case, Burke may choose to buyout Koimisarek in an effort to outbid his competition, solidifying his first line and, in the minds of many, putting his hockey club in the position to compete for a Stanley Cup as soon as next season.

Sure, buying out Komisarek is not ideal, but if buying out Komisarek was the difference between landing Brad Richards or being an also-ran in the bidding process look for Burke to pull the trigger and make the move.

Until next time,

Peace!

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