The Toronto Maple Leafs have locked up Joffrey Lupul for the next half-decade, agreeing on a 5-year extension worth $26.25 million. It averages out to $5.25 for the Leafs' right winger, just a hair under Phil Kessel's deal and $250,000 beneath Mikhail Grabovski.
“[Lupul] has proven to be a dynamic offensive player and since joining our hockey club he has fit in extremely well with our team,” Dave Nonis said in a statement. “His alternate captaincy is well deserved and, by signing this extension, we look forward to him playing a large role with the Leafs for many years to come.”
Ah, yes, the alternate captaincy. That "A" is as pivotal to this story as the one in The Scarlet Letter. See, Leafs' coach Randy Carlyle clashed with Lupul in Edmonton, but the "A" he awarded Lupul in advance of the Leafs' opener was a symbolic gesture that he's come around to Lupul in a core role in Toronto. It was a stamp of approval.
Count all that salad Dave Nonis just gave him as a similar gesture. Lupul is now one of the Leafs' highest-paid players. Should he be?
Well, judging by last season alone, sure. Lupul was a point-per-game player in Toronto, with 67 points in 66 games. But the question is whether or not it's repeatable.
For this contract to be worth it, it goes without saying that it needs to be. Lupul now has a deal comparable with Evander Kane, Jason Pominville, Bobby Ryan, and John Tavares, among others. But what all of those players have on Lupul is more than one productive season.
The coaching change in Toronto may still put a hamper on Lupul's production. After all, while Carlyle may have embraced Lupul's preexisting role, the Leafs' top line simply isn't going to have the same freedom under him that they did under Ron Wilson. Carlyle expects backchecking and responsible defensive play, and if Lupul has a weakness, well, it's that stuff.
Can he remain a point-per-game player when he's expected to up his performance at the other end of the ice? If the answer is yes, this is a great deal, especially since two point-per-game seasons would likely have earned Lupul even more at the year's end.
But if not, "overpayment" just became a palindrome.
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