MacArthur gamble has paid off for both sides

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:49 PM ET

TORONTO - When Clarke MacArthur signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs late this past summer, it was a gamble for both parties.

For the player, it was a chance to prove that he can be a legitimate offensive contributor worthy of bigger money down the road.

For the team, which needed some experience to join a forward group that was light in that department, he was worth a shot.

Safe to say the signing has paid off generously on both sides of the table, but where does it go from here?

In MacArthur, the Leafs have a somewhat unlikely leading scorer (17 goals, 27 assists), already a career year for the 25-year-old who walked away from a $2.4-million US arbitration decision with Atlanta and accepted a one-year, $1.1-million deal with the Leafs.

By any measure, MacArthur has fulfilled his promise and is worthy of a new deal and a hefty raise. But will it be here?

“I have no clue what’s going on, but I’d like to do something,” said MacArthur, about the absence of any contract talk with the Leafs. “I don’t know what’s in store.

“To be honest, if it gets done, great. But it’s not like the whole year I’ve been thinking about it. I’m just trying to put a good year together and trying to get into the playoffs. Whatever happens, happens, I can’t really control it.”

From the Leafs’ point of view, there’s no urgency to get his name on a new contract while the calendar still says February.

Not that he’s being shopped, but if there is active interest in MacArthur prior to the Feb. 28 trade deadline arriving, his current salary only adds to his value on the market.

“In terms of contract negotiations, we won’t comment on the status of discussions (if any) with any player during the season,” Leafs vice-president of hockey operations, Dave Nonis, said Sunday via e-mail.

Getting his Phil

It doesn’t matter that his play the past week may have picked up in other areas, when your name is Phil Kessel and you haven’t scored in 14 games, it’s going to be a rough couple of days.

The Leafs and their silent sniper had a day off Sunday. They’ll practise Monday before jetting to Boston for a Tuesday date with the Bruins where you-know-who will be the focus again.

Kessel has struggled mightily against his former team and has yet to score against them since general manager Brian Burke acquired him prior to the 2009-10 season. On the first visit to Beantown this season, Kessel was serenaded with a “Thank-you, Kessel” chant from the witty TD Garden faithful.

Always a streaky scorer, if Kessel shoots blanks again on Tuesday, he will match a career high (or low) 15-game drought, something he hasn’t done since 2006-07, his rookie season.

Of particular concern is the woeful Leafs power play, which was blanked in five attempts on Saturday.

“I just think we have to go back to the basics right now,” Kessel said . “We need to get one because it can change things around.

“Right now, we are not getting close at all. We aren’t getting many quality chances.”

Meanwhile, it’s worth mentioning that despite the glee Boston fans take in Kessel’s woes, Tyler Seguin (the first of the two first-rounders the Bruins got in the deal with the Leafs) has struggled lately.

He scored his ninth of the season in Sunday’s 4-2 win over Detroit, but was a healthy scratch the previous two games.

Trade Central

Monday afternoon puts the NHL trade deadline countdown at two weeks and thanks in part to the Leafs-Ducks deal last week that brought forward Joffrey Lupul here, talks around the league are active.

“Lots of discussion is taking place,” Nonis said. “It has picked up, but nothing worth acting on yet.”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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