August 5, 2011
Schenn wants to stick it out with Leafs
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - For a guy who has only seen Toronto playoff games on LeafsTV repeats, Luke Schenn sounds a bit too eager about signing on for a multi-year hitch.
But after three years, Schenn has more of a stake than other young Leafs, many of them fellow first-round picks who've already moved on. Schenn survived a rookie year when he had to master a difficult position and fight battles on behalf of weak or reluctant mates, as Wendel Clark once did. He suffered a bit of a sophomore jinx, was benched a couple of times and played his way out of the funk. He's worked his way to a career-high 22:22 of ice a night, a line of deuces that extended to a career-high 22 points.
Heading into training camp in a month, he'll be surrounded by possibly the best Leafs' defence in years, certainly the biggest with himself, Keith Aulie, Cody Franson, Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson.
The city has also grown on him. Life in Toronto isn't every player's desired destination, but Schenn has found his own way to perform well in the fishbowl - and be comfortable in civilian clothes. That's why he's keen on staying, with agent Don Meehan and the Leafs getting to the nitty gritty of negotiations this week.
"Something will get figured out for sure," Schenn said Wednesday at the Hershey Centre, where he was putting the country's best bantam-aged players through practice at the Allstate-NHLPA mentorship camp. "I started here and had a good opportunity. As far as the team goes, we haven't made the playoffs yet and we've had a bit of a rough time as an organization in terms of the standings. (But) I've played three years here and got to know a lot of people in this city. I have a better idea of how things work. No question I want to be part of things going forward and help achieve some success.
"Being drafted here (the Leafs traded up to get him fifth overall) was a dream come true for a kid and I got to experience a lot at a young age. I want to be part of the organization, hopefully, into the future."
Before the Phaneuf trade, Schenn was getting consideration for the Leafs' captaincy. While he can't speak to any NHL post-season experience, he has been through a couple of world championships at the junior and senior level, and his selection to coach this camp along with veterans Martin Biron and Jason Spezza is a sign of respect. Schenn led all NHL defencemen in hits, a stat that Spezza knows well from the lengthy Battles of Ontario. The two will be coaching the bantam teams in Saturday's 1 p.m. final at the Hershey Centre.
"I played in a couple of world championships with Schenner and I don't want to have to hear about (Toronto - Ottawa)," Spezza laughed. "We're building towards Saturday and it's going to be a big day for both of us."
Schenn and Meehan are counting on his recent accomplishments coming into play when talking to Brian Burke's contract point men, such as Claude Loiselle. But Meehan has already said that Shea Weber's grand slam arbitration award of $7.5 million US won't factor into the Schenn discussions. Schenn, not yet 22, is younger than Weber and just completed his entry level deal. Schenn can't wire the puck like the Olympic team defenceman, but can look forward to something in the $3 million to $4 million annual range. His draft-year classmates Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian, are up, too. Schenn, coincidentally, has been training with Weber in Kelowna, B.C.
"We're pretty good buddies hanging out all summer and I had an idea what was going on," Schenn said. "But you're not going to compare yourself to guys like that.
"No question you look at (other) signings and what they get, but everyone's different. There are tons of different things to take into consideration. But there is still time to get a deal dome. You look at guys who went to arbitration and you can get a deal done in a day if you really wanted to. Sometimes it's a process, but at the end of the day, everything will happen just fine."