Avoiding a salary arbitration hearing on Friday, the Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to a three-year contract with a cap hit of $3.15 million per season ($9.45 million total).
Gunnarsson, who’s currently 26 and will be 27 in November, has played four seasons for the Maple Leafs with a total of 224 games since being drafted by the Maple Leafs in the seventh round (194th overall) back in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft out of Sweden. Gunnarsson first broke in with the team during the 2009-2010 season where he played in 43 games and registering 15 points (3-12) while also playing 12 games for the Toronto Marlies where he had two assists. The following year, Gunnarsson played in 68 games and posted his career high of 20 points (4-16). In 2011-2012, Gunnarsson played 76 games and had 19 points (4-15). This past season, Gunnarsson scored 15 points (1-14) in 37 games which would have had him on pace for a career high of 28 points in 71 games.
I really like this contract. It’s great value for a player who is very underrated among, not only fans of other teams but, fans of the Maple Leafs as well. He’s very solid defensively, despite not being very physical. He uses his frame and long reach to shut down opposing players but he also has a decent offensive game. He’s never going to have outstanding point totals, but he is able to move the puck out of traffic and can be used on the power play sparingly. Gunnarsson is also, in my opinion, the only defenseman on the Leafs that can play with Dion Phaneuf well as well as play bigger minutes and not lose his effectiveness. He’s a quality defenseman and getting him on a $3.15 million cap hit is a steal, to me. Gunnarsson did not receive an invite to Sweden’s Olympic Orientation Camp which came as a surprise to me considering they invited Douglas Murray over him. However, Sweden has some very good players on defense so it would have been unlikely Gunnarsson would have cracked the roster anyway.
As for the Maple Leafs, they have roughly $7 million left to spend on restricted free agents Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri. The most interesting one is definitely going to be what kind of deal Kadri gets after he flashed his potential this season but did go through stretches of games where he struggled. The Leaf’s other RFA, Mark Fraser, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 30th. It is unclear as to what Fraser’s side is asking for and/or what the Maple Leafs side is proposing. He shouldn’t get a crazy, outrageous deal from arbitration so they should have the money to get Franson and Kadri’s deals done and fit under the salary cap.
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