Leivo contract hints at Leafs' master plan: Cox

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Date sent: 2017/11/23 03:13:50
On its own, the Josh Leivo signing by the Maple Leafs last week was hardly earth-shattering news or something likely to be a pivotal <a href=""></a> transaction this season.
But it was intriguing nonetheless, a glimpse into the dynamics of the team’s salary and personnel management strategy, which could be as interesting to watch in the coming years as the team’s on-ice performance.
That’s the NHL, of course, in 2017. There’s the games on the ice, and the fascinating salary-cap games off the ice.
The Leafs have received a lot of undesired attention for the manner in which they’ve handled high-salaried veterans they no longer want (hello, Joffrey Lupul), but less attention for what they’re trying to create with the organization in general.
Leivo gave us some insight into that. On the surface, it seemed a bit unusual that a player who, to some degree, seems trapped within the organization would choose to extend his contract to the end of next season rather than become an unrestricted free agent in July.
Why would he do that? He’s not dressing much. Wouldn’t he want out?
Tough call for the young man, for sure, and it helped that he had an experienced adviser in agent Ian Pulver, who has seen the NHL business develop from a number of perspectives over the past 20 years. Leivo concluded that it was better for him to stay in Toronto and fight for work rather than take a chance in free agency that he might find a better home.
“He’s from the Toronto area, he wants to make it here and be part of what they’re doing,” said Pulver. “He’s prepared to wait his turn to perform on a regular basis. If he gets a repeated chance to do that, he believes he can have success here.”
In other words, Leivo decided the grass wouldn’t necessarily be greener somewhere else, that the Leafs are now an organization worth being part of and that an opportunity for a bigger payday would be enhanced if he took this deal now.
Needless to say, this is exactly the situation Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and Co. are hoping to create.
Remember, the Leafs are heavily influenced by people who were once in the New Jersey (Lamoriello) or Detroit organization (Mike Babcock, Jim Hiller). Shanahan, meanwhile, was part of both. Both the Red Wings and Devils during their heydays were exceptionally good at accumulating talent, keeping that talent as long as possible and creating the conditions under which, in some cases, talent was convinced to stay and play for below-market salaries.
The Devils knew as long as they had Martin Brodeur content at a certain salary, it was nearly impossible for any other player to ask for more. Plus, players liked winning Cups and living in suburban New Jersey.
Detroit, meanwhile, was very good at <a href=""></a> keeping players in their farm system for as long as possible, both as an apprenticeship technique and to make it difficult for those players to demand higher salaries early in their careers. While other teams were rushing kids to the NHL, the Wings would take a more gradual approach, understanding it was also a way to control costs.
How can you ask for the moon on your second contract, after all, when you’ve played most of your entry-level years in Grand Rapids?
Teams require long-term stability in management to consistently pursue these kinds of strategies. Detroit and Jersey both had that, and the Leafs appear to now.
The overall goal is to be better able to afford the expensive, irreplaceable players by making sure there’s lots of choice and competition among the more affordable, replaceable athletes.
The only current Leaf guaranteed to get paid to the max is Auston Matthews. Forget the big hometown discount there. The Leafs need to then manage their cap intelligently to afford William Nylander and Mitch Marner, with the dollar amounts depending on how those players progress.

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