Lost in the shuffle of a busy offseason in Toronto is the status of Jason Blake. The drafting of Schenn, Sundin saga and the signings of Finger and Hagman have for better or worse received most of the attention of the media. The soon to be 35 year old American had a terrible year in 07/08 on a number of levels. We all know of the cancer scare he received and Jason has done a commendable job in the community after getting the news last September. However, that does not give him a free pass on the terrible season he had on the ice. Jason played in all 82 games but scored a miserable 15 goals compared to the 40 of a year earlier. Jason had a reluctance to pass the puck, take shots from bad angles and as reported by Howard Berger, possible negative effect in the locker room. He is signed for another 4 more years with a cap hit of 4mil per season which means hell be paid 4mil until he is 38 years old. None of this is what current Leaf GM Cliff Fletcher really wants in a rebuilding team. That being said, lets look at all the options Cliff has with Blake.
Buyout: This is really not an option for the Leafs. A buyout would mean a cap hit of 1.333mil for the next 8 seasons. Ask Jason's former Islander teammate Garth Snow about what its going to be like paying that kind of money for 8 seasons. Quite simply, this is not an option for at least another 2 years because right now the Leafs can afford to eat his salary.
Demotion to the Marlies: I wouldnt put it past the Leafs to do this down the line but as of right now, this option also seems to make little sense. The reality is despite Blake's shortcomings he is still a serviceable NHL scorer for the time being. Demoting him to the farm would make for terrible press and a reluctance in future free agents to sign in Toronto. Demoting an nhl contract is acceptable if the player's performance is at the ahl level. Jason isn't at that level......yet.
Trade: Believe me, Cliff is exhausting all resources trying to find a trade parter but right now Blake's value is extremely low. With 4 years left on his deal its unlikely any team is desperate enough to trade for him in the offseason. It remains possible a team needing to get to the cap floor might take a chance on him (LA, ATL) but any trade would probably net no return or worse a similar player/contract in return. I think if you can move Jason out for a C level prospect or a late pick, you might have to accept for fear of never being about to unload the contract.
Hold onto him for now: I believe this not only to be the best and most logical option but what is going to happen. Jason deserves another chance to prove himself. Best case scenario, Blake scores somewhere around 20-25 goals and a desperate playoff team takes a chance on him near the trade deadline. Trust me, if Blake can prove himself as a decent 2nd line scorer again despite his defensive shortcomings, teams will want him. Remember that a couple seasons ago Atlanta GM Don Waddell was so desperate to make the playoffs for the 1st time in Atlanta that he dealt a future top pairing defenseman in Coburn for an overpaid veteran defenseman with 2 more years on his contract. That defenseman was Alexei Zhitnik and he was recently bought out of the last year of his contract. Say Columbus is sitting in the 7th-10th spot in February, I can really see them taking a guy like Blake if he has somewhat of a bounce back year. Now I'm not suggesting they'd get a player of Coburn's quality back but maybe a 2nd round pick or B level prospect. The bottom line is that Jason's value really has nowhere to go but up. If it remains this low and he has another terrible year some of the options stated earlier will need to be examined. Put it this way, if Jason Blake is wearing Blue and White in 2 seasons, I'd be shocked...unless its Marlies Blue and White. Expect Blake to come to camp with a chip on his shoulder and Leaf fans can only hope he plays better and increases his trade value.
Probably worth noting that jason did have a career high 37 assisits, giving him 52 total points (69 points being his career high with that 40 goal campaign). Yes Blake did struggle to score, but i wouldnt go as far to say he had a terrible season. 4M for 52 points is not that bad considering players like smyth making 6.2 and vanek making 7.1 and bith drury and gomez making over 7 and none of these players getting over 70 points. Plus considering the whole cancer thing, I dont feel blake had such a "terrible" season. He is going to be counted on as probably one of their best forwards, as he is making the most, which is not alot in todays NHL market. look at the leafs D for example, thats where you would be worried about overspending for lack of production.
When you look at the numbers it was a disaster season for Blake but having watched probably 76 of his games he was all around terrible. He was top 5 in shots on goal but only scored 15. Thats cause he took a unreal amount of shots from the side boards or the blue line when he clearly should of passed it in or put the puck in deep. He was a turnover machine resulting in several goals including a crushing OT one with 12 seconds left against the Isles. He generally did not backcheck well. He missed wide open teammates while taking bad shots or trying to do it all himself. I think the assists were mostly 2nd assists and a lot were undeserving. Take into consideration the supposed dressing room issue and this is not a guy you want. I do agree that the Leafs have bigger issues and that is why this isn't receiving as much attention. Plus, it may not be popular to say so but Blake would of been given the McCabe treatment had he not had cancer. Sorry, it may sound mean and he might not deserve it but its true. I think hell be better this season and get like 23 goals and 30 assists maybe. That might be trade-able at the deadline.
you realize that the stat you just wrote that suggests you would be happy with his production is one point higher than what he had this year? Sure, there are more goals there but it is only ONE point better, and that would please you.
I think he's counting on improved play on a worse team in addition to that extra point
The Leafs are definitely getting what they paid for. I don't mean that in a bad way, either. Since 2003 Blake has scored between 47 and 69 points per season. The 69 is the career high and 52 is right on par with every other season. He was also 4th in scoring on the Leafs this season. If Sundin signs somewhere else Blake could end up being the leading scorer on the team and all he would have to do is score more goals. Of course, if Mats is gone then all your production is going down. I could see Blake leading the team in scoring with 45-50 points next season and the Leafs struggling worse than my Islanders to score goals.Also, ChadKilger, what's with the numbers there man? I hope you're trying to imply that that would be a improved season from Blake considering the offense the Leafs will be rolling out. If he notches 53 points it will probably be a miracle. Otherwise you should add 15 to 37 and see what you come up with. Also, the McCabe treatment? McCabe is getting the McCabe treatment because he has a cap hit almost 2 million more than Blake and happens to be the highest paid player on the team. Blake is going nowhere this season because without him your best players are Nik Antropov and Alex Steen... Think about it, do you really want to let him go?
The numbers are not the issue. He needs to stop turning the puck over, start passing the puck and stop taking bad shots. The numbers I suggested are better because Blake is a goal scorer and its more important for him to get goals than assists. Hockey is about way more than numbers.
Unfortunately, a puck hog, that takes bad shots is exactly what you paid for when you signed Blake. All those bad angle shots were going in 2 seasons ago.. This past season they didn't. Those 2 criticizms (sp?) have always been the knock on Blakey he tries to do too much and rarely looks for his teammates
Blake will have 25 goals next season, and you can hold me to that. He might make some bad decisions with the puck, but he works his ass off. I hope for his sake and for Toronto's sake that he has a good season. Both Toronto and NYI deserve good seasons for once so let's hope for the best. I still hate Darcy Tucker though.
Blake should go back to the Islanders. Snow should offer a shitty pick and then he could ride shotgun on Weights wing. Not sure who would center Blake in TO this year,any thoughts?
Looks like Stajan as of now. They played together last year. The Leafs are desperate for a 1st line C which I don't think they'll be able to find unless Mats returns (which I contend he will). I should also point out that Blake had a 4
In regards to capmess11 the leafs can keep Blake, I was happy to see this guy go his 40 goal season was a fluke as it was in a contract year. I remember the leaf fans raving about getting him last year "Oh he'll score 40 goals again easily playing with Sundin". I'll end this by quoting Borat "NOT SO MUCH!"