Leafs GM says no to Mitchell

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:05 AM ET

Restricted free agent John Mitchell will not get a qualifying offer from the Maple Leafs and will be free to sign elsewhere come Thursday, but that doesn’t mean general manager Brian Burke has pushed the centre out the Bay St. door.

“After lengthy talks with Joel Resnick (Mitchell’s agent), we decided not to qualify him,” Burke said after Monday night’s deadline passed. “But he wants to stay and we’d like him to as well. It’s just we feel qualifying him is more (money) than we believe his value is at present. We know we’re running a risk here that he could go.”

Mitchell made $500,000 US last season, but the Leafs’ qualifying figure would be higher than that and provide Mitchell with salary arbitration rights the team isn’t comfortable giving him based on recent performance. Mitchell was one of the hardest workers right from the informal summer workouts as he sought to impress Burke and coach Ron Wilson, both unfamiliar with the fourth-round draft choice from 2003.

Mitchell ended 2009-10 with 23 points in 60 games, less output than his rookie year, but in fewer games because of injury.

Qualifying offers were extended to forwards Nikolai Kulemin and Christian Hanson. Among the AHL Marlies not qualified were 2005 third-round pick defenceman Phil Oreskovic and defenceman Matt Jones, who was acquired from Phoenix in the Lee Stempniak trade, but is considering retirement after a concussion with his previous team.

KULEMIN TALKS COOL OFF

Leafs senior vice-president David Nonis and Gary Greenstin, the agent for Kulemin held lengthy discussions the past weekend and actually made a little progress.

“But I would underline the word ‘little’,” said Nonis, who didn’t sound like anything would be settled by Thursday.

Kulemin’s strong second year with the Leafs was not overlooked by the Leafs, but he apparently wants to be paid like a first liner, a position Burke believes was more dictated by circumstance than merit.

SWEDISH FAREWELL

The very expensive and unproductive Jonas Frogren experiment came to an official end for the Leafs the past few days with confirmation the unrestricted free agent will rejoin his Farjestads club team in Sweden.

The decision had been made on a four-year deal with Farjestads back in April.

Once projected as the fifth or sixth defenceman on the Leafs in 2008-09, Frogren spent all of last season with the Marlies getting 11 points in 58 games.

Brought in by interim GM Cliff Fletcher in the summer of ‘08, Frogren played 41 games for the Leafs that year with seven points.

But the NHL later fined Toronto $500,000 and took away a fourth round pick, ruling the Leafs took short cuts with Frogren’s deal as he’d originally been a Calgary Flames draft pick and subject to entry level salary conditions.


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