Yesterday Calle Jarnkrok signed a four-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The contract carries an AAV of $2.1 million per season for those four years. Some fans disparaged the signing because they believe that the term of four years is too many years. However, to me the signing makes sense.
Solidifying the Maple Leafs’ Third Line as a Shutdown Unit
Specifically, last season the Maple Leafs finally found the success that head coach Sheldon Keefe wanted by building a shutdown defensive-minded third line. Last season, that line consisted mostly of center David Kampf and wingers Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall. It worked well for the team and provided some needed secondary offense as well.
But when Mikheyev left for greener pastures in Vancouver, the team needed to solidify its third line as a shutdown unit. With Jarnkrok, they got that. Jarnkrok is an excellent 200-foot player. He consistently adds secondary offense and can be counted on to average 15 goals and 30 points each season.
However, perhaps Jarnkrok’s best attribute is that he’s consistent in two ways. First, he hardly ever draws a penalty. Second, he always (with one exception last season with the Seattle Kraken) puts up a positive plus-minus rating. In only one of his NHL seasons has he drawn more than 18 minutes in penalties.
What Are the Maple Leafs Trying to Do?
So, what are the Maple Leafs trying to do by signing Jarnkrok? My guess is that the signing is the precursor for an upcoming Alex Kerfoot trade. The team needs more salary-cap space to re-sign both Rasmus Sandin and Pierre Engvall. Jarnkrok is a less expensive – read, a salary-cap replacement – for Kerfoot.
Currently, the Maple Leafs are now over the salary cap by a couple of million. Although that’s allowed this time of the year, it has to be taken care of sooner rather than later.
Where Does Jarnkrok Fit into the Maple Leafs’ Process?
Above all, Jarnkrok will be a third-line player. His experience has been that he doesn’t make mistakes, especially in games when it counts. Last season, as Maple Leafs’ fans know, the team could have won the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning except for crucial mistakes.
Specifically, in Game 6 in Florida, the Maple Leafs could have easily won the game and eliminated the Lightning except for two high-sticking penalties that cost them the game in regulation. They lost in overtime and eventually the series.
In all these respects, signing Calle Jarnkrok makes sense to me.