Are the Toronto Maple Leafs About to Make a Huge Mistake?

By Lukas Hardonk (@LukasHardonk)

The Stanley Cup Final is underway which not only means its time to celebrate the greatest game in the world but also that the off-season is upon us and those who aren't fortunate enough to be playing hockey into late June have some important decisions to make. Having been defeated by the Final's Eastern Conference representative, the Toronto Maple Leafs are no different.

Along with Tyler Bozak's contract, the Maple Leafs' biggest decision this summer will undoubtedly be what the team should do with Clarke MacArthur, one of their most important depth players. Regardless of how you spin it, the Maple Leafs have no reason to let MacArthur walk this summer without making every effort to re-sign 28-year-old.

That is unless your name is Dave Nonis.

However, the team's focus appears to be set on re-signing impending UFA forwards Tyler Bozak and Colton Orr, and defenseman Mike Kostka, while winger Clarke MacArthur and defenseman Ryan O'Byrne are likely to walk.

MacArthur, 28, is wrapping up a two-year, $6.5 million contract. He could see his annual salary climb over the $4 million mark, which might place him on the outs in Toronto.

The Fourth Period, June 9/13

Sure MacArthur may see a hike in salary, he spent some time in the press box during the playoffs and saw a slight drop in his production in 2013 but those aren't enough reasons to drop him, especially for no cost whatsoever.

MacArthur was a plus-rated player once again in 2013 at plus-three. He is a tough person, he is becoming a leader both on and off the ice, he contributes to the power play, certainly knows how to skate, plays well at both ends and can spark the team when it's in need of inspiration. Furthering MacArthur's credentials as a hockey player is the fact that, as Cam Charron notes here, he makes the players around him better.

Those comparable to Clarke MacArthur include Ryan Malone, David Perron and Jiri Tlusty, who come with $4.5 million, $3.8 million and $1.6 million cap hits respectively. Average those out and you get $3.3 million, $5,000 less than MacArthur's current cap hit. Even when you consider Tlusty an outlier the average is $4.15 million, which isn't too bad of a price for MacArthur considering his importance combined with the fact that Leo Komarov is headed for Russia next season.

And let's face it; how willing are Nonis & Co. to pay Bozak close to if not more than $5 million per season? Probably not very.

Assuming Bozak and all others with the exception of Komarov are re-signed in time for next season, the forward depth chart should look something like this:

Lupul - Bozak  - Kessel
MacArthur - Grabovski - van Riemsdyk
Kulemin - Kadri - Frattin
McLaren - McClement - Orr

Anyone who followed my thoughts throughout the 2013 season would know I am strongly opposed to the idea of dressing both Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr on any given night. That said, even if they are both around next season (Orr was re-signed today) as well as MacArthur, it is plausible to say there is still a hole in the bottom-six.

What does this mean? Well not only do the Maple Leafs have room for MacArthur but they also have room for an addition to the roster or to give someone from the AHL's Toronto Marlies a chance in the big leagues.

Now here's the big question that must be answered before the Maple Leafs decide to give up on MacArthur just like that: since when has it been acceptable to let a player who is a leader and a strong contributor walk when there is still plenty of room to keep him around and nobody who can jump right in to fill his spot in the lineup?

The answer: Never. Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs can only hope that management is smart enough to bring Clarke MacArthur back next season.

Follow Lukas on Twitter (@LukasHardonk) for Maple Leafs news, opinion and analysis.