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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Get New Jersey Devils to Send Jeff Finger to the Minors

32 year old Dainius Zubrus is 6'5 225 lbs and
Plays Third Line Centre for New Jersey Devils
Brian Burke has expressed his preference to keep Jeff Finger on the Leafs if Nazem Kadri is assigned to the minors.  You can read more about it in James Mirtle's article published by The Globe & Mail on Monday.

Burke identifies some of the intangibles that benefit the Leafs from this approach.  I see one tangible loss from keeping Jeff Finger on the team.  The Leafs will lose close to $3 mil from next year's cap if Jeff Finger makes the team this year.

Here's how it works.  The Leafs are above their cap limit for salaries.  However, an NHL team can defer bonus payments to the next year's cap up to 7.5% of the current year cap.  That comes to $4.455 mil for this year.  Together, the contracts for Tyler Bozak and Luke Schenn provide up to $4.95 mil in bonuses.

So, with bonus deferrals, their is room for Jeff Fingers' contract.

Here is where it seems odd.  If Jeff Finger makes the team, it will be as the eighth defenceman.  It seems Burke believes he is better off having Jeff Finger as his eighth defenceman in place of selecting a spare from his pool of forwards.

I can only imagine the emotional response from Leafs Nation when they find out Jeff Finger made the team and the team's "eighth" defenceman is getting paid $3.5 mil.

Presently, the biggest hole in Toronto's lineup appears to be third line centre.  Ideally, Burke wants to fill this hole a big centre with offensive skills.  Wouldn't it would be nice if Burke can trade Jeff Finger for such a player?

There may be such an opportunity with New Jersey Devils.  A trade where Jeff Finger can help New Jersey with its cap problem and New Jersey can help Toronto with its third line centre problem.  Now, before declaring me certifiably insane, please read through the rest of this post. 

According to many reports, New Jersey may very well address it's cap problem by assigning Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador to the minors.  This will cost the Devils $10.4 mil for Zubrus (three years at $3.4 mil per year) and $5.8 mil for Salvador (two years at $2.9 mil per year).  By the way, sending Jeff Finger to the minors will cost $7 mil (two years at $3.5 mil per year).

Dainius Zubrus happens to be New Jersey's third line centre.  He is 32 years old, 6'5 and 222 lbs.  Last year, in 51 games played, he scored 10 goals and 17 assists.  The previous year, he scored 15 goals and 25 assists in 82 games played.

There have been rumours about Toronto's interest in Zubrus.  Probably because it is difficult to get a third line centre with his size and skill.  The down side is his contract.  He has three years remaining at $3.4 mil per year.  Expensive for a third line centre and long for a 32 year old.  However, it is better than paying $3.5 mil for two years to your eighth defenceman.

The three years maybe too long if Burke believes Brayden Irwin (age 23) or Christian Hanson (age 24) can become the third line centre within one season.  If this is the case, he will simply "eat" Jeff Finger's contract.

Trading Zubrus for Finger will save New Jersey $3.4 mil if they intend to assign bad contracts to the minors.  Remember, Zubrus has $10.4 mil remaining on his contract while only $7 mil remains for Finger.  Whoever New Jersey demotes, will not have a chance to return to New Jersey next season because the Devils will have another cap problem next year when they renew Zach Parise's contract.

So, Brian Burke, get New Jersey Devils to send Jeff Finger to the minors if you can't bring yourself to do it.  You can get a big talented third line centre for the trouble.  If New Jersey does this for you, maybe you can get them to convince Tomas Kaberle to waive his no trade clause.

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  1. It would certainly make the Leafs better now, especially given that Kadri will likely be spending some time in the AHL.

    The problem is that when Kadri comes up (presumably some time this year or to start next season) Zubrus becomes your 4th center at $3.4M behind Kadri, Bozak and Grabovski.

    Unless Burke changes his tune on burying players that might be a risky proposition long term but goodness knows we could use a veteran center.

  2. Looked forward to your comment. Ya, damned if you do...and damned if you don't.

    If this scenario plays out, I see Zubrus staying as the 3rd line centre and Grabovski going on the bubble if he doesn't deliver on his potential. Kadri can easily become second line centre by mid-season (with or without Zubrus). He is at an age where you can see rapid development. His current problem may simply be needing some time to get used to his new playing weight.

    I think it comes down to Burke's view on the likelyhood of Irwin or Hanson developing into a 3rd line centre by midseason. If he believes it is most likely, then you don't take on Zubrus.