MacArthur helps Leafs down Islanders

Toronto Maple Leafs' James Reimer steers the puck away from New York Islanders' Frans Neilson....

Toronto Maple Leafs' James Reimer steers the puck away from New York Islanders' Frans Neilson. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

MIKE ZESIBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 PM ET

TORONTO - In his quest to land a contract extension with the Maple Leafs, Clarke MacArthur let his stick do the talking for him on Tuesday night.

It had been a while.

In his six previous games, MacArthur had gone goalless and registered just one assist, a frustrating dry spell for the young winger who was still getting chances but could not bury them.

Of course, with the Feb. 28 trade deadline quickly approaching, MacArthur’s offensive struggles sparked even more debate among the loyal Toronto fan base as to whether the Leafs should lock him up long term.

Was this a bargain basement gem who, after inking a one-year, $1.1-million US free-agent deal with the Leafs late last off-season, was out to prove he deserved more, as evidenced by the fact he entered play on Tuesday leading the Leafs in scoring with 45 points?

Or is this yet another example of a guy who just happens to be putting together a career season as he prepares to become a free agent, albeit a restricted one?

On too many occasions, teams fork out big bucks to a player in his contract year only to find that the individual’s performance deteriorates once he has the security of a long-term deal.

Such is the dilemma that Leafs general manager Brian Burke faces when it comes to making a decision regarding MacArthur.

For his part, MacArthur has made no secret of his desire to stay, passing on that message to anyone who would listen during the Maple Leafs morning skate on Tuesday.

About nine hours later, he backed up his words by ripping a perfect shot into the far corner past New York Islanders goalie Al Montoya at 10:13 of the first period, the opening goal in a 2-1 Maple Leafs victory at the Air Canada Centre.

The goal was a career high 18th of the season for MacArthur, who has clicked all season with linemates Nikolai Kulemin and Mikael Grabovski. Such was the case on the goal against the Islanders, with Kulemin setting him up perfectly.

Burke has said he might move MacArthur if a contract agreement is not reached by the deadline, a comment that the hard-working winger is quite aware of.

“It makes it a bit uncomfortable, but I’m holding out hope that we can get something done,” MacArthur said.

MacArthur recently changed representatives, opting to pick up the services of respected agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports. Among the Newport clients on the Leafs is young defenceman Luke Schenn.

Reached during the game on Tuesday night, Meehan texted that the two sides have had only “general discussions so far.”

While the MacArthur situation continues to unfold, the Leafs keep on rolling, collecting seven of a possible eight points in their past four games to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Rookie goalie James Reimer once again was outstanding, allowing just a second-period Matt Moulson goal for the victory. It was the first time in 10 games that the Islanders had not scored at least three goals in an outing.

Phil Kessel, who just busted out of a MacArthur-like slump last week, broke a 1-1 tie with less than five minutes to play, snapping a bullet from the high slot that beat Montoya cleanly.

Kessel is a likely bet to be a key cog for the Leafs next season.

Will Clarke MacArthur be one too?


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