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And Joffrey Lupul is a good hockey story.
That said, NHL clubs don’t pay $ 26.5 million for engaging tales.
The Leafs made him one of the club’s new assistant captains on Saturday before the new contract was announced Sunday, expressing a belief by Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle that Lupul can be one of the veteran players who can add a support group around young captain Dion Phaneuf.
“If I went and had a huge year and then went to unrestricted, sure, there could have been more dollars out there,” said Lupul. “But I was looking for the right fit for me. Maybe there was a couple million more out there, but then I could end up somewhere I don’t love.”
It’s an interesting contract that comes with a limited no-trade clause and a cap hit of $ 5.25 million. It’s a moderate raise of $ 1 million per season, less than the deal Mikhail Grabovski received, and well under the eight-year maximum term allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement. Overall, it would be hard to argue that the Leafs overpaid or overextended their commitment.
Toronto’s cap situation is as good as that of many teams, and Nonis clearly wanted to protect it, with as much as $ 15 million available to spend next summer even with the cap dropping to $ 64.3 million.
“And he wanted to be here.”
Lupul’s career was in jeopardy after complications resulted from surgery to fix a herniated disk in his back in December 2009. He developed a blood infection during his second surgery, requiring months of antibiotics and bed rest before he could get back to the NHL.
Three months after returning, the Ducks dealt him to the Leafs along with defence prospect Jake Gardiner for veteran blueliner Francois Beauchemin, a deal that now looks like a steal by former GM Brian Burke.
Questions were created when Carlyle was hired to coach the Leafs last winter in the midst of Lupul’s finest NHL season, because the winger had made it clear he felt Carlyle and the Ducks hadn’t given him a fair shot after he fought his way back to full health.
But the Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native said that’s all forgotten, and the contract proves it.
Lupul and John-Michael Liles are two Leafs that are part of a growing group of NHLers advised on personal branding and community involvement by Brad Robins, who also has had New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur as a client for a decade and has started to advise Devils forward David Clarkson.
Lupul clearly wants to be more than just another Leaf. For starters, he has taken over from the departed Luke Schenn as the sponsor of a program for members of the Canadian Forces, who are honoured at every home game.
“Last week, my agent sent me some info about other UFAs next summer, and different teams and their cap space, and I flipped through it all,” Lupul said. “But I really didn’t want to be anyplace else. This is the place for me.
The Leafs clearly believe that Lupul’s strong season a year ago wasn’t a fluke, and that he can reproduce it.