The Maple Leafs today announced they have signed Mariusz Czerkawski to a one year contract. While no terms were released rumours are it is in the $1 million range. They are also apparently talking to veterens Steve Thomas, Mike Keane, Bryan Marchement, possibly Jason York, and quite possibly others as well. Is this John Ferguson Jr’s strategy all along or is he just trying to save face for missing out on other free agents during the early August free agent frenzy?
Howard Berger obviously believes JFJ is just saving face and attempting to give coach Pat Quinn some veterens to work with rather than depending on Kilger, Ponikarovsky, Antropov, Wilm and others who haven’t shown a whole lot at the NHL level.
nd Ferguson’s respect for Quinn has been even more apparent in the past couple of weeks. Though he signed Eric Lindros and Jason Allison and traded for Jeff O’Neill to replace some of the veteran wingers who left the team, Ferguson had to know he could not go into the season solely dependant on unproductive players like Nik Antropov, Alex Ponikarovsky, Chad Kilger and Clarke Wilm to occupy key roster positions. Or, promising newcomers Kyle Wellwood and Alexander Steen. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be fair to commit to Quinn for two more seasons, and then deprive him of the type of accomplished veterans he’s routinely deployed in his Toronto years. –Howard Berger
But maybe this was JFJ’s strategy all along. JFJ always stated he had a plan and to me it looks like he has a good one. While the Montreal Canadiens are out giving Alexei Kovalev 4 year, $18 million contracts, the Leafs sit tight, wait it out and then pick up Czerkawski at only a tiny fraction of the cost.
Over the past 5 NHL seasons Czerkawski scored 35, 30, 22, 5, and 25 goals. That’s a total of 117 in 367 games. Over the same period Kovalev has scored 26, 44, 32, 37, and 14 goals. That’s a total of 153 goals in 384 games. Kovalev definitely has more goals but half of that time he was playing with Mario Lemieux while Czerkawski was for the most part playing with Yashin or, in his 5 goal season, on the third line in Montreal. One would naturally expect Kovalev to produce better offenive numbers playing with Lemieux.
I won’t argue that Kovalev is almost certainly the better player but the difference between the two is not huge and certainly Kovalev isn’t a $4 million per year better player than Czerkawski. Looks to me like the Leafs get a steal with this signing. Whether it is JFJ’s off season plan or he’s just trying to save face we will never know, but let’s give the guy credit for making a smart signing at a bargain basement price.