It is always nice to be right.
Sure Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher doesn't like the plight of his club these days. After an impressive and surprising 20-7-3 start the Wild has faltered with a 2-11-4 slide after a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday.
But Fletcher, at least, could take some solace in the play of Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul. The 28-year-old forward from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. registered three assists to push his season total to a club-leading 51 points. He only is two points shy of matching the career best 53 he checked in with in his second NHL season in 2005-06.
Fletcher was part of the Anaheim Ducks management team with then general manager Bryan Murray and assistant GM Tim Murray when Lupul was selected seventh overall in the 2002 NHL entry draft after Rick Nash, Kari Lehtonen, Jay Bouwmeester, Joni Pitkanen, Ryan Whitney and Scottie Upshall.
With all the line mixing Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson made in practice in the hopes of snapping a three-game losing streak, Lupul kept producing. He was split up from Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak because the trio had been on for way too many goals in the Leafs previous three losses in a row.
Let's face it, the Maple Leafs were lucky to acquire Lupul 49 weeks ago when he landed on Toronto's doorstep along with defenceman Jake Gardiner and a conditional draft pick in exchange for veteran blue-liner Francois Beauchemin.
Lupul had missed an entire season after back surgery and a subsequent blood infection. He only was 26 games into his comeback from this medical condition when the Ducks insisted the Maple Leafs take Lupul's $4.25-million salary cap hit in the Gardiner-for-Beauchemin trade.
Plain and simple, Lupul has been a salary dump that has paid big-time dividends for the Maple Leafs. His three-point game against the Wild was his 74th outing in a Toronto sweater and he now has an impressive 29 goals and 60 points during this period and appears destined to finish among the top-10 scorers in the NHL.
Lupul was a prolific goal scorer in junior with the Medicine Hat Tiger. Then after his rookie NHL season in Anaheim, he was one of the many young pros -- Jason Spezza and Eric Staal included -- who benefited from a year in the AHL during the lockout season.
But after his career-best 28-goal, 53-point season in Anaheim in 2005-06, he was part of the trade that the Ducks sent the other way in order to acquire Chris Pronger from the Edmonton Oilers. Ironically, Lupul was dealt back to the Ducks when they sent Pronger to the Philadelphia Flyers in June 2009.
Now, the Maple Leafs have a decision to make with Lupul. With the trade deadline five weeks away, does he stay or does he go?
The eight-year veteran is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-13 season. With his production, he's likely a $5-million plus a season player. But with his consistent production this season and another banner year, how can the Maple Leafs afford to send Lupul packing?
Back to accessibility links