June 14, 2012
Leafs going ahead as scheduled
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires three months from Friday and the Maple Leafs do not want to be putting any chains on the Bay St. doors.
Though the big Toronto market has easily survived two lockouts and a brief players’ strike in the past 20 years, this campaign is supposed to be about restoring playoff traction for general manager Brian Burke’s team after spinning out in the second half of last season.
From a marketing standpoint, the club’s invite to the Jan. 1 Winter Classic against Detroit will literally be its moment in the sun, with more than 100,000 people expected to break a hockey attendance record in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“I’m sure both sides will be intent on working as diligently and responsibly as possible over the summer to reach agreement on a successor CBA in a timely manner,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in and e-mail to QMI Agency.
The league frowns upon club officials from commenting on specific CBA issues.
“What we’re focused on right now is that there will be a season,” said Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and COO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. “So we’re pumped, ready to rock and roll and planning for things such as the Winter Classic. We can’t wait.”
Many observers believe a labour disruption is inevitable, at least a short one. But most agree the two sides would never let it drag to the point of threatening the season, especially the Classic, with so many people planning to attend and a huge American TV audience.
Anselmi said a budget has been approved for general manager Burke ahead of the July 1 onset of free agency, should Burke see something he likes. Few teams are excited by the market, especially if Zach Parise of the Devils stays put. But the Leafs will once more have the funds to spend to the cap limit, which is temporarily set at $70.3 million US, up from $64.3 million, until the new CBA is sorted. Teams can also go 10% over the cap in the summer months.
The Leafs are expected to be near the front of the line if former Anaheim Duck first-rounder Justin Schultz becomes a free agent in a couple of weeks.
Schultz, a big defenceman with 44 points in 37 games, is leaving the University of Wisconsin a year early to play pro. But he’s thus far not signed with the Ducks, who could lose him if a deal is not reached by June 24. After that, a number of teams are in the picture, his home province Vancouver Canucks, the needy Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers, Oilers and the Leafs.
Toronto’s connection is that Burke drafted him just prior to leaving the Ducks in 2008, 43rd overall, the round after another Wisconsin defenceman Jake Gardiner. Anaheim was so anxious to get Schultz signed, it was reportedly prepared to burn a year of his entry-level contract just to play him in the final few games of the regular season. The Ducks might also work a trade for his rights before the 24th.
There will be some Leafs representation at the NHL awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Winger Joffrey Lupul is up for the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Lupul came back from a career threatening back ailment to be one of the NHL’s top scorers. Fellow candidates, as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, are Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.
Leafs defenceman John-Michael Liles is contending for the NHL Foundation Player Award for his charitable efforts in the community.
Toronto will be releasing its full exhibition schedule in the next few days. But the Leafs have their traditional home and home lined up with the Red Wings, Oct. 5 at Joe Louis Arena and back at the Air Canada Centre the next night ... The Leafs are putting between $20 million and $30 million Cdn. back into the ACC this year to modernize the conversion of seating between events and renovate the Hot Stove Club ... At least one championship hockey team partied hard in Toronto this past week. According to Yahoo Sports, the Norfolk Admirals ran up a $10,000 bar bill at the pub in The Annex on Saturday night after knocking the Marlies out of the Calder Cup final earlier in the day.