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7 2007 . 
Shoalts: Another way of looking at the Antropov deal // Globe and Mail

David Shoalts

The huge raise Nik Antropov scored on Wednesday plus the one Alexei Ponikarovsky got before that will spark a lot of complaining among Leafs Nation. However, like almost everything Toronto Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson does, there are two different ways of looking at it.

Yes, awarding contracts to Antropov for $2.05-million (all figures U.S.) and $2.105-million to Ponikarovsky for scoring, respectively, 18 and 21 goals this season, appears excessive. Given Antropovs injury history, this is especially so.

However, when he was healthy down the stretch, Antropov played the best hockey of his career on the top line with Mats Sundin and Ponikarovsky. He scored 11 of those 18 goals a career high in the 36 games he played over the last part of the season when he returned from a sprained ankle. Ponikarovsky scored 21 goals in 71 games.

Ferguson can argue he had a first line at a bargain price last season. Antropov made $1-million, while Ponikarovsky was at $712,000 and Sundin at $6.3-million for a total of about $8-million.

With the raises doled out to Ponikarovsky and Antropov, plus the $5.75-million Sundin is expected to sign for shortly, the price of the Leafs top line will rise to $9.9-million for next season.

Ferguson can still argue this is a bargain if his gambles pay off that Antropov stays healthy and builds on his scoring totals, ditto for Ponikarovsky, and that Sundin can still be the leading scorer on the team. Despite Antropovs fragility, both he and Ponikarovsky are 27 years old, so I suppose there is reason to believe it could happen.

Im not saying Ferguson is right, just that I can understand his thinking. Personally, I would have tried to pay Ponikarovsky about $1.5-million, because once he got $2-million, you knew Antropov would be after the same sort of money.

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