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Johnston: Leafs-Sabres shenanigans, Clarkson’s indiscretions will ding Leafs roster’s bottom line

The proprietor and I were sort of hoping for a nice, quiet Sunday night on KK, and that seemed to be the case until about 9:30, when the Maple Leafs and Bruins engaged in massive amounts of dumb and/or exciting fighting. Hockeyfights.com posted what may be the longest and most context-setting clip of the bouts (and you will all be shocked, of course, to find out that John Scott was chirping at the Leafs' bench before he tried to fight Phil Kessel, David Clarkson hopped off the bench and five minutes of adventures in knuckle-punching took place)...

And while the Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby and Toronto Star's Dave Feschuk did a fine job of capturing the Leafs' post-game reaction, and the Olean Times-Herald's Bill Hoppe told the Sabres' side of the story (not-so-shockingly, neither team chose to make the principals in instigation and jumping off the bench, respectively, available to the media), Sportsnet's Chris Johnston noted that the incredibly high likelihood that prized free agent signing David Clarkson will be suspended for ten games makes the Leafs' cheek-to-cheek dance with the salary cap quite complicated:

For starters, the Leafs will be forced to hang on to at least one extra forward out of training camp while also remaining below the $64.3-million cap ceiling. And if Kessel – who received a match penalty for swinging his stick at Sabres behemoth John Scott after the melee kicked off – is also suspended, they will probably need two extra bodies.

(Kessel's match penalty = one Gary Bettman will decide whether to suspend Kessel)

Therein lies the problem. The cap hits of suspended players remain on a team’s books, so the fill-ins will likely come from the lower range of Toronto’s payroll. Carter Ashton ($1.04 million) and Joe Colborne ($600,000) are obvious choices – both played well Sunday before all hell broke loose – while Trevor Smith ($550,000) and Troy Bodie ($600,000) could also be called on.

A Clarkson suspension could also impact Mason Raymond and Cody Franson, who are both currently without contracts. Raymond, a speedy winger, looked like a good bet to turn his tryout into a one-year deal with the Leafs.

Franson has been sitting out in a bid to get more money from the team in negotiations and that won’t be happening for the defenceman in the near future. Raymond will have to sign at a bargain price, while adding Franson will be less of a priority with cap space so scarce.

Leafs coach Randy Carlyle may have offered the most astute summation of what happened on Sunday night...

“This is another hand that you’re dealt and it’s adversity that comes your way,” said coach Randy Carlyle. “David Clarkson made a mistake and now we pay for it.”

And Johnston also points out that the festivities may resume in earnest in November--about three weeks after Clarkson finishes serving his suspension:

Despite the series of ejections, there was a feeling resembling giddiness in Toronto’s dressing room after a line brawl that included new goaltender Jonathan Bernier trading punches with counterpart Ryan Miller. The Leafs were proud of the way they defended one another against a division rival they will see on five more occasions in the regular season, starting with a home-and-home series Nov. 15 and Nov. 16.

However, any excitement will dissipate once reality sets in and league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan starts handing out sentences. The fact Toronto must go more than three weeks without Clarkson will certainly hurt. The team’s 11th game won’t come until Oct. 25 in Columbus.

Clarkson's $5.2 million cap hit belies a real-world salary of $4.2 million this season (per Capgeek), and 12.19% (10 games out of 82) of it's likely to be handed over to the Player Assistance Fund over the next month or so.

Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: buffalo+sabres, david+clarkson, john+scott, phil+kessel, randy+carlyle, suspensions, toronto+maple+leafs

Comments

Hootinani's avatar

But Scott goes after a guy half his size and gets nothing.  Gutless POS.

And how about a fine for Rolston or the Sabres in general for throwing out that goon squad in the first place?

Posted by Hootinani on 09/23/13 at 08:21 AM ET

DocF's avatar

Hootinani posted: ” And how about a fine for Rolston or the Sabres in general for throwing out that goon squad in the first place?”

All well and good, but he did exactly what Scott is paid for.  He set a tone and Kessel’s stick swinging should net him a long, long suspension, at least 10 games regular season in my opinion.  Clarkson displayed a total lack of intelligence in his antics.  But then, look who is coaching this bunch.

Doc

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 09/23/13 at 08:54 AM ET

Avatar

That was one of the dumbest melee’s I have ever seen.If there ever was a promotional video to ban fighting that segment was it. Topping it off Bernier looked like a clown. A meaningless game, with an even more meaningless series of fights.

Posted by timbits on 09/23/13 at 09:16 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

New NHL advertising campaign: slow down the video of Kessel whaling on people with his hockey stick, and fade in a screen which says, “Because it’s the Preseason”.

Posted by TreKronor on 09/23/13 at 09:41 AM ET

Primis's avatar

That was one of the dumbest melee’s I have ever seen.If there ever was a promotional video to ban fighting that segment was it.

Posted by timbits on 09/23/13 at 09:16 AM ET

As I said on Twitter last night, John Scott is why the anti-fighting people who want it completely eliminated will continue to have a point.

Posted by Primis on 09/23/13 at 10:27 AM ET

perfection's avatar

I definitely don’t think Kessel deserves a suspension. He was about to be jumped by a goon twice his size without provocation. How on earth is a guy like Kessel supposed to react? Does the self preservation law of the jungle not apply on the ice? What is he expected to drop the gloves and square up with him? He’d probably be in the hospital right now if he did that. Is he expected to turtle and just cover his head? He did exactly what I would have done, what he should have done, and would I’d expect just about any regular sized scorer to do to a monster goon any time they are about to be jumped. Defend yourself. Swing away Phil. I think any suspension the league feels Kessel deserves should just be handed to Scott or Rolston as they are definitely at fault. Clarkson may have screwed up, but did Kessel really screw up? Other than the final little poke he gave him, his stick swings seemed fully legit in my book.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 09/23/13 at 12:30 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Does the self preservation law of the jungle not apply on the ice? What is he expected to drop the gloves and square up with him? He’d probably be in the hospital right now if he did that. Is he expected to turtle and just cover his head?

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 09/23/13 at 12:30 PM ET

Yes.  The league expects him to turtle.  And for his efforts turtling and not fighting or doing anything, he’d still get 5 min and maybe a GMC anyways.

Because that’s how precisely this bass-ackwards league works.

By doing what he did, Kessel prooooobably did more good for himself.  Are guys gonna’ watch that tape of him swinging his stick and come after him?  Maybe not.  Had he turtled or whatever though, that’s practically an open invitation to guys to come after him.

Posted by Primis on 09/23/13 at 12:37 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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