By Allan Muir
Whatever else Mike Komisarek may be, he is this first and foremost: the ultimate cautionary tale for NHL free agents.
The veteran defender — the vanguard of Brian Burke’s bearded hordes of Truculent Leafs — was waived today at his own behest, freeing him from press box purgatory and the crushing frustration of four wasted seasons in Toronto.
What happens next remains to be seen. But he knows this much: when he signed away his own no-movement clause, he bought himself the chance to play, something that clearly wasn’t going to happen in Toronto.
Will it be in the NHL? Probably not. Sure, there is always a need for some sandpaper along the blueline at this time of year, but the $3.5 million salary/$4.5 million cap hit that would tag along with him next season might be too rich for anyone’s budget, especially considering that he’s played just four games this year.
More likely he’ll go down to the AHL Marlies where he’ll finish out the season and, if he avoids injury, wait to become one of Toronto’s two compliance buyouts over the summer. A discouraging end, but at least he won’t go down wearing a suit.
It’s been a long fall for an athlete who was one of the hottest free agents in 2009 and was selected to the U.S. Olympic team in 2010. Komisarek was a significant contributor in Montreal, but he never reached the same heights with the Leafs. A victim of trying to play to his contract instead of his strengths, he never really fit in with his new team despite being the living, fire-breathing archetype of a Burke player.
Komisarek wasn’t talking today, but you have to believe that he’s wondered how things would have played out if he’d stayed in Montreal instead of bolting to the Leafs. It was reported at the time that he had a five-year, $20 million offer on the table to stay with the Habs. He passed.
Staying in place isn’t always the best option. Sometimes the money and the opportunity offered elsewhere coincide to make for an obvious choice. Think Zdeno Chara in Boston or Scott Niedermayer when he signed with the Ducks.
But when you see someone like Corey Perry sign an extension that brings him considerably less than he could have hauled in on the open market, you can understand the thought process. There’s something to be said for knowing exactly where you fit in a room and on a roster. For some guys, that’s worth surrendering a few bucks.
Probably a price Komisarek is wishing he had paid right about now.