Salary Cap Impact – The Leafs

By Darryl Dobbs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are making decisions that they normally wouldn’t in the past. Being forced to spend under $44 million dollars when the team is accustomed to no limits at all is forcing the team to change philosophy.

General speaking, it was an unwritten rule in fantasy circles to not draft potential Leaf rookies. Chances are that the player you choose would either not crack the lineup on a regular basis, or when they did crack the lineup they would not be a major piece of the offensive puzzle. This unwritten rule didn’t stop a lot of poolies from drafting the likes of Nik Antropov and Matt Stajan.

The introduction of the salary cap last season changed some of that. I say “some” because the Leafs still tried to keep the status quo by signing cheap veteran Eric Lindros and incentive-laden Jason Allison. Even so, they still added two rookies to the lineup, Alex Steen and Kyle Wellwood, that look very promising in hockey pools.

Finally. This year, the full impact of the salary will truly be felt in Leaf-land – no ‘cheap’ stop-gap solutions by giving roster spots to veterans at a discount. All cheap roster spots will now go to rookies and other minor leaguers deserving of a chance.

The first rookie I would recommend considering in deeper pools is Aleksander Suglobov. A 2000 second-round pick (56th overall) acquired from New Jersey in the Ken Klee deal, Suglobov has shown some offensive promise. He’s more of a goal-scorer than a setup man, but scoring goals is exactly what Toronto needs.

The irresolution of the NHL transfer agreement with Russia casts doubt on Toronto’s ability to bring their 2006 44th overall pick Nikolai Kulemin over, but if they are able to negotiate a settlement with Metallurg, he could surprise.

Finally, the long-awaited NHL presence of Johnny Pohl. After tearing up the scoresheets in college hockey, Pohl slipped as a prospect in St. Louis. Last season was a resurgence of sorts, as the new rules have allowed his slight 186-pound frame more room to maneuver. The result? By far and away his most productive season in the AHL, and an impressive four points in seven games with the Leafs. The contract he signed (naturally for the NHL minimum) is one-way. He’ll start off as a depth player but will have every opportunity to work his way up.

Meanwhile…

The NHL/Russian transfer agreement is dead, and this puts a lot of young Russian prospects in limbo in the hockey pool world. Currently, the likes of Evgeni Malkin (Penguins) and Alexei Mikhnov (Oilers) are testing Russian labor law in which they give their teams two weeks notice and are able to then leave. That, in conjunction with NHL teams paying affected Russian teams a boatload of money, will insure some of the more important prospects (read: Malkin) will get here…

NHL players, meanwhile, are taking flight to Russia. Nikolai Zherdev, the Columbus star who was looking at a possible breakout year in the NHL, has signed a deal to play in Russia. He has an opt-out clause in which he can play in the NHL if he’s signed by October 1st. N.Y. Islanders prospect Sean Bergenheim has also signed to play in Russia, but there is not yet word on whether he has a similar clause. In all likelihood, he does, and this is a move to give him leverage in contract negotiations with new GM Garth Snow.

For more fantasy tips, and to pick up Dobber’s new Hockey Pool Guide Supplemental (available NOW), visit www.DobberHockey.com


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