Friday, December 25, 2009

Matt Stajan is playing his way off the Leafs

Matt Stajan has looked very good of late. However, I'm afraid he has looked too good. He is having a career year playing centre to Phil Kessel and is the leading all Leaf forwards in scoring with 28 points. At this pace he will score 24 goals and 61 points.

Stajan is also 26 and a UFA this summer. His salary is a comfortable $1,750,000 is you are Brian Burke. The problem is that UFA with Stajan's stats are getting $4 million per season. Nik Antropov scored 59 points last season and is earning $4 million; Johan Franzen scored 34 goals and 59 points last season and is earning $5.5 million (with a cap hit of $3.955); The Sharks' Ryane Clowe is earning $3.5 million and in his best season he scored 52 points; Alex Frolov of the Kings is earning $4 million (but cap his only $2.9) and his best season was 67 points; and finally the Devils' Travis Zajac who had a career year of 62 points last year and is earning $2.75 million (the cap hit is $3.888).

But is Matt Stajan really a number 1 centre? I don't think so. Playing along side Kessel and inflating his numbers. The Leafs have signed Grabovski for 3 years to centre a 2nd line who is another small centre but with more offensive potential. Do you think Brian Burke will want to pay a centre easily knocked off the puck and who relies on linemates to pick up points $3 to $4 million?

However, as was the case with Moore and Antropov last season, the ideal time to maximize your return is to trade a player who is having a career year. Don't be surprised to see Stajan moved at the trading deadline this season. I would rather see Jeff Finger or Jason Blake but there isn't a market for these overpriced commodities. My guess is Burke will continue to search for a legitimate 1st line centre and look for a more physical centre to put on the 3rd line. Now I would rather keep Stajan over Grabovski for the 2nd line but the Leafs lack creative players with the puck so Grabovski will likely stick around.