Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

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

09/23/2013 at 3:05am EDT

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.

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

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.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at [email protected]

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