Locked Out Lupul


Recently Joffrey Lupul wrote an opinion piece over at AskMen.ca. And while I am disappointed I visited a site that looks to be a front for rohyphol sales, I was interested in hearing what Lupul had to say.

That led to disappointment number two. Joffrey Lupul isn’t interested in sharing his opinion so much as reciting the PA’s main talking points. Despite trying to make a point to the contrary, Lupul seemed to be making a plea to the fans:

“Let’s get this straight: This is not a PR piece.”

Followed shortly by:

“When I look at that, the first thing I think is that it shows a lack of respect for the fans.”

“the fans are what make this game special”

And of course…

“So why not make the voice of the fans heard? You’d be surprised who will listen.”

Certainly seems like to be a PR piece to me. Personally, I’d rather Joffrey have spent his 700 words spouting off on what has him so pissed off. In my mind, he should be. And while I don’t necessarily agree with the NHLPA (or the NHL for that matter), I do think that Joffrey Lupul squandered an opportunity to highlight the uniqueness of his situation in this mess.

He didn’t do it, so I’ll try to here.

The main meat and potatoes of it stems from the fact that this is a contract year for Lupul, which has the potential to be either a good thing or a bad thing for him. The upside of course is that some of the best hockey he has played in his life was the last hockey he played before going for a new contract. In addition, with the owners end game being financial parity around the league, there is a greater pool of teams that might be willing to throw offers his way, either driving up the price for Toronto or allowing him to get more elsewhere. He certainly also has the added bonus of being able to negotiate a strong deal immediately rather than be forced to play out the term of a rolled back contract.

The downside of this situation is equally obvious for Lupul. He’s going into free agency with a legacy of injuries, including a season ending one just prior to the lockout. He had a point per game season, but it could be seen as an outlier regarded as him peaking, as he is now at an age where player production typically declines. It could also be regarded as the beneficiary of Phil Kessel’s abilities. All of these could be reasons Lupul may not receive the aggressive offers he may have received if he is able to duplicate his success once more before his contract, something he would need to do before competing against the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Stephen Weiss, Derek Roy and Alexander Semin for the top dollars available in July 2013. With a greater likelihood of teams already being pushed right up to the cap (I’m going out on a limb and assuming there will still be one), teams are less likely to pony up what they once did for a player in his situation.

The success of the new CBA may be measured on players like Lupul. Will he receive an asinine mega deal signaling the lockout has done nothing more than waste all of our time? Or will Lupul be one of the first tertiary scorers that will feel the impact of a more conservative-spending NHL? Clearly he is a player in limbo as the league and union do their dance, and none of it was reflected in what he had to say.

There is also the potential for the situation to be far more dramatic for him, and I have assumed to this point that Lupul would still be classified as an unrestricted free agent in the new CBA. This would not be the case based on the initial offer from the NHL.

What of Lupul’s injury-ridden past? That has to be a factor that weighs on him heavily as he determines his lockout plans. Does he go to Europe and risk hurting himself in a meaningless Swiss League game, cementing his reputation as an injury prone player? Or does he for the second time in four years spend a year out of competitive hockey?

After all of that, now you can insert the usual rhetoric about short careers, getting a fair share of record setting revenues, and caring about the fans.

I’m left wondering what the CBA means regarding how much longer Lupul is a Leaf. Already there was the potential that, as a UFA, he would be a player dangled as trade bait throughout the season. But in a shortened season with a CBA that will somehow be even more restrictive of trades (based on what’s been said, I’m making an assumption) or become no season at all, does that make it more likely that Lupul remains a Leaf? In a crowded free agent class there was a good possibility re-signing Lupul would take a backseat to attempts to bring in Getzlaf, Perry, Weiss, or Clarkson (presumably all players Burke would love), but with these cash strapped teams getting a new lease on life will it make sense to lock up the decent player Toronto already has first? I’d certainly expect that Burke will keep either MacArthur or Lupul, but not both.

While I’m sure Lupul wasn’t interested in entering into his whole situation, and I’m sure the audience of AskMen appreciates that he kept the article to a length that didn’t cut into their time spent staring at underboob slide shows, it is a compelling situation and his article left me wanting. This is a potentially a declining Leaf forward who will be handcuffing the salary cap for years to come or a quality offensive threat who will walk for nothing.



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