Is Dave Bolland worth $40 million over eight years? Absolutely not

Rory Boylen
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Thank goodness the Toronto Maple Leafs only traded the No. 51 pick and the No. 117 pick from last year’s draft and a fourth-rounder from this year’s to acquire Dave Bolland, because if the oft-injured center really is looking for a seven or eight year extension that goes as high as $40 million, the Leafs should use him for this season, then discard him in the summer.

Bolland seeking 7 or 8 yr #Leafs exten’ that could max out over 40m. Is he worth it? Tune into HC @ noon for the latest. FAN590 @Sportsnet

— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) February 26, 2014

 

Bolland’s current deal comes with a $3.375 million cap hit, which he signed before the 2009-10 season as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. He was 23 and coming off a career-best 19-goal, 47-point season and the average annual value (AAV) of the deal amounted to 5.9 percent of the cap.

A support player his entire NHL career, Bolland has never had the same type of offensive season he did in 2008-09, which is due in no small part to his penchant for getting injured. Since signing his current contract, Bolland has managed to play in three-quarters of his team’s games only once.

He will not reach that threshold this year, either. He hasn’t seen game action since severing an ankle tendon in early November and while it was believed he was nearing a return, he wore a maroon non-contact jersey during Tuesday’s skate and there are reports he suffered a setback. Though he will travel with Toronto to Long Island for Thursday’s game, he is not expected to play.

Bolland took a step back yesterday Carlyle says. Unclear if he will play tomorrow.

— David Alter (@DavidAlter590) February 26, 2014

 

Bolland very non-committal on his status for tomorrow. Asked in several different ways. Only said he is day-to-day.

— David Alter (@DavidAlter590) February 26, 2014

 

Make no bones about it, Dave Bolland is an effective and attractive two-way center when he is healthy. But the problem is two-fold. 1. He has trouble staying healthy and, 2. he’s not a first line center on a championship team. He’s a third or, at best, a second line option and any team investing in him would be wise to think of him as such.

Which begs the question: is Bolland worth $5 million a season?

Next year’s cap is expected to climb to $71.1 million, so a $5 million cap hit equals just more than 7 percent of payroll. The conditions surrounding his contract negotiations this time are much different than they were in 2009. For one, he holds the pending UFA card and can walk if he doesn’t get what he wants. For another, he now has two Stanley Cup championships to his name. So you can absolutely expect a raise.

The Leafs targeted him for his playoff experience, work ethic and two-way responsibility and a $5 million price tag would currently make him the fourth-highest paid forward on the Toronto roster. On its own, that total isn’t completely out of place. But when you consider his inability to stay healthy, the rumoured term he’s looking for, and the fact Toronto has to make decisions on what to do with Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and James Reimer this off-season, plus Jonathan Bernier and Nazem Kadri next and you start to question if Bolland’s intangibles are worth his place on the payroll chart. In my opinion, a seven- or eight-year term is a non-starter the Leafs should run far, far away from.

The thing is, Toronto can’t really trade Bolland for assets before the deadline, because that would defeat the purpose of acquiring him in the first place. He’s here to help push a playoff run along and even if he doesn’t return to the ice Thursday, he will be back at some point. The only way you trade Bolland now, if you’re Toronto, is if you’re getting a very similar player in return. Not sure that’s going to happen, especially since coach Randy Carlyle is already a big Bolland fan.

So, is Bolland worth $5 million a season? That total isn’t unreasonable. What is unreasonable, given his history, is the long term he’s reportedly seeking. If I’m Toronto I play out the season with him on my roster and see where it goes…

…then I let him walk away for nothing in the summer and keep that $5 million for a rainy day.

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