Morning Mashup: Gunnarsson Locked Up

Frank Gunn/Canadian Press

Frank Gunn/Canadian Press

Leafs management inked their second RFA this off-season with yesterday afternoon’s announcement of 24-year-old Swedish rearguard Carl Gunnarsson’s new two-year, $2.6 million contract extension. Gunnarsson will earn $1.4 million in 2011-12 and $1.25 million in 2012-13 for a cap hit of $1.35 million over the next two seasons. After locking up James Reimer through 2013-14 last Thursday, that’s two down and three to go when it comes to the organization’s RFAs. Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacArthur and Luke Schenn remain in need of new deals. Some comparables and analysis of Gunnarsson’s new contract after the jump:

I picked out the following four players as most comparable to Gunnarsson on the bases of age, contract value (based on the cap hit number),  and style of play. Defencemen on ELCs were disregarded, narrowing down the field considerably.

DefencemanAgeCap HitPointsGPPPTOI/60
Carl Gunnarsson24$1.35M20681.3 minutes
Kris Russell24$1.3M23732.62 minutes
Kevin Klein26$1.35M18800.23 minutes
Matt Niskanen24$1.5M10631.75 minutes
Jason Demers23$1.25M28752.16 minutes

Demers and Russell outproduced Gunnarsson only marginally when you consider PPG rates, and both received considerably more powerplay time. The following could be a word of warning or a positive sign of things to come depending on Burke’s moves this off-season: Gunnarsson had 12 points in 24 games following the Kaberle trade, promising if the Leafs choose to continue to expand his role and hope for the best when it comes to offensive production from the blueline (if the Leafs acquire Richards, who would be their PP QB presumably, this may be Burke’s choice). Now, if they opt for a top four puck mover via trade or free agency this off season, Gunnarsson’s final points total (25 point pace over 82GP) might be a little misleading going forward.

Defensively, Carl Gunnarsson certainly had some games that were far from mistake free. But on the whole, his -2 plus/minus when facing the third toughest competition among regular Leaf blueliners (behind Aulie and Phaneuf, ahead of Schenn) on the sixth most scored on team in the league speaks to a quietly impressive own zone game. If hardly physical (he threw only 63 hits last season), he has a heady, positional defensive game. Gunnarsson started out the season in and out of the lineup (he was a healthy scratch 11 times in October/November), but by the end of the year he was the Leafs‘ fourth defenceman behind Phaneuf, Schenn and Aulie. Combine solid defensive play with 20 points (still a reasonable estimate if Burke does opt for a new puck mover), I think he has a future as a number 4 or 5 defenceman on a winning NHL franchise.

A fair deal for both sides here and good going Leafs brass for keeping it at just two years in length; Gunnarsson’s future in Toronto isn’t totally clear yet. Come off-season 2013 it should be.

Onto the links from Greg:

Leafs Links:

Leafs lock up Gunnarsson with two-year deal

Brian Burke signs the Leafs second RFA in a week after inking James Reimer last Thursday.

Burke Checks Another RFA Off The List: Gunnarsson Signed

Editor In Leafs’ Myles Robinson is a fan of the Carl Gunnarsson extension.

2.65 Million Dollars Buys A Lot Of Modular Furniture

Jon S. at Puckin’ Eh thinks the Leafs paid the right price to lock up Gunnarsson.

The most important decision facing the Leafs this summer?

VLM evaluates the Leafs off season needs and decisions that must be made.

Playoff Links:

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Regardless of who wins, this year’s Cup finals have been a tremendous showcase of hockey.

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Another hilarious piece from DGB

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The Star’s Cathal Kelly thinks Tim Thomas deserves the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Leafs’ Giguere reflects on playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final

J.S. Giguere can relate to Roberto Luongo in a high pressure situation like the Cup Finals.

Canucks’ Raymond out 3-4 months after check

Raymond sidelined long term with a vertebrae compression fracture.

Other Hockey Links:

Detroit assistant Paul MacLean is Senators’ coach

The five-year Red Wings assistant coach joins Ottawa as their new bench boss.

Your Say:

Yay or nay to the Gunnarsson extension? Can the Vancouver Canucks regain momentum and defeat the Bruins at home to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history?