Leafs sign Schenn just in time

Luke Schenn. Courtesy Toronto Maple Leafs. (schennheadshot)

Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed restricted free-agent (RFA) defenceman Luke Schenn just in time for him to report to training camp on schedule.

Thursday night, a deal was struck to keep the 21-year-old blue-liner in town for the next five seasons at a price of US $18 million.

After weeks of negotiations, the Saskatoon native is ready to get the season underway after what was a nerve-wracking summer.

“I’m very grateful. I couldn’t be more thankful,” said Schenn during a press conference streamed on the Maple Leafs official website Friday. “I’m looking forward to the next five years here in Toronto.”

Schenn posted a career high 22 points last season to go with 168 blocked shots and an NHL defenceman-leading 251 hits in 82 games.

He also averaged 22:22 minutes of ice time, second amongst Maple Leafs.

LISTEN NOW: Schenn stays in Toronto

While completing his three year entry-level contract that owed him a base salary of $875,000, the 2008 fifth-overall draft pick actually earned $2.975 million in each of those seasons considering additional bonuses according to CapGeek.com.

Under the new deal, Schenn will be making US $3.6 million per season.

A strong leader and stay-at-home defender, the contributions Schenn brings to the ice are generally absent on the score sheet but not from the negotiating table when working out a new contract.

Putting a dollar value on the non-statistical inputs of a player like the defender is one of many aspects which led to prolonged bargaining required when striking a deal.

“There are many factors relating to the negotiation of a contract,” said Schenn’s agent Don Meehan to the Toronto Observer. “Namely a player’s goal is to maximize his worth under our current Collective Bargaining Agreement, as well as loyalty to an organization.”

Meehan is part of the Mississauga-based Newport Sports Inc., the same agency that represents Los Angeles Kings RFA defender Drew Doughty.

Doughty appears to be holding out on the Kings following his entry level deal and some wondered whether Meehan was going to be playing a similar style of hardball with all of his young defensive clients.

Not affected by buzz about player holdouts, Leafs President and GM Brian Burke was confident that the right deal would get done despite the technical hitches created by the NHL’s current financial system.

“In a hard cap system, its not simple to arrive at values,” said Burke at the press conference. “Don Meehan’s group did a real good job on Luke’s side and Claude Loiselle did a real good job on our side, and I think the deal that’s reached is fair.”

With Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, Keith Aulie, Carl Gunnarsson, Matt Lashoff and newcomers John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson geared up for the 2011-12 campaign, Schenn is the proverbial cherry-on-top to the talented Maple Leafs defensive corps.

“Unless you can keep the puck out of your own net you’re not going to have a championship team,” said Toronto’s GM from the press conference.

“In my mind championship teams start at the back end of the rink and I think that this group we’ve put together on the blue line is competitive as anybody’s.”

Schenn expressed agreement with his GM, admitting that he expects good things for the Leafs in the future.

“I think were definitely on the right track,” said Schenn during the press conference. “Not only in becoming a playoff team, but hopefully going above and beyond that.”