MINNEAPOLIS - Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke would like to find out if forward Clarke MacArthur is a one-season wonder before he rewards him with a hefty long-term contract.
For that reason, Burke said on Thursday that he’s quite willing to let MacArthur go to arbitration before signing the restricted free agent to a long-term deal for big money.
“The problem is I’m not prepared to commit to a long-term contract for a player who really had one productive year,” Burke said at the team hotel where the Leafs are preparing for this weekend’s NHL entry draft.
“Putting a value on that is not easy either. That’s why we haven’t been able to sign him. It’s not that he’s being unreasonable, it’s just ‘What is he?’
“Is he a 70-point player or is he a 35-point player where he has been most of his career, so I’m not surprised we’re having a difficult time arriving at a value.”
It’s would seem clear that negotiations between the team and agent Don Meehan has ground to a halt. Towards the end of the season, both sides seemed optimistic a deal could be reached before July 1. Now it seems unlikely.
MacArthur certainly had a breakout season with the Leafs finishing second in team scoring with 21 goals and 42 assists and it seemed like he would be certain to return with a decent raise. After a quick start to the season, he also endured some lengthy scoring droughts so consistency would appear to be a concern with the team.
Signed to a one-year contract last summer after the Atlanta Thrashers walked away from an arbitration award, MacArthur was a good fit with the Leafs and received some of the credit for the improved play of linemate Niklolai Kulemin.
At the end of the season, MacArthur enthusiastically made it clear that he’d like to return to the team next season.
“He’s got arbritration rights and that’s fine,” Burke said. “That’s part of the collective bargaining agreement, part of the process.
“I think he’d like to stay and we’d like to keep him.”
As for another notable Leafs RFA, defenceman Luke Schenn, Burke seemed less concerned.
“There doesn’t appear to be any urgency on that one from their side,” Burke said of negotiations with Schenn’s camp. “They’ll probably wait and see if other teams sign contracts that they think might help them.”