The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing the NHL's top team in the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight and head coach Mike Babcock didn't want to anger his upcoming opponents during his post-practice interview.
As the bench boss met with media members following Thursday morning's skate ahead of tonight's contest, Babcock instead decided to applause some of the moves made by the Lightning management and team throughout the past seasons.
In talking about the fire power on the Bolts' roster, Babcock noted the great work that was done to sign these players and credited Tampa Bay for many things, including “getting their players to buy into their salary structure.”
It did not take long for some fans to see this comment as a personal attack on some of his players and Leafs management, including GM Kyle Dubas.
As we all know, the Maple Leafs are facing quite the financial puzzle this offseason with many pending free agents to re-sign. William Nylander’s holdout concluded with a six-year, $45-million deal and Auston Matthews inked an extension that will see him count for $11.634 per year through 2023-24… There is quite a bit of worry that the Leafs can’t afford to keep the team together in Toronto.
The team’s first priority is to accommodate Mitch Marner’s upcoming raise. John Tavares, Nylander and Matthews will add up to just under $30 million in cap space, and we already know Mitch Marner should command $10 million more. Then there are Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, who are two of several pending RFAs looking for a nice raise…
And so here is what some fans had to say about Babcock's comments. Was he targeting Marner? Matthews? Or the pending agents thinking about leaving and testing the market?
There were so many negative comments made on Babcock following his answer that Luke Fox of Sportsnet, who first reported the head coach's comments, needed to make a precision on his statement and how he perceives what was said:
"For what it's worth, I didn't interpret this as a shot at Leafs players or management. Just one accurate reason, among several, why the Lightning are a force. Hard (and risky) line in the sand with Stamkos negotiations helped with nice prices for Hedman, Kucherov, etc."
Let's also remind fans that Florida is a no-tax state and players can afford to buy into the salary structure of the Lightning...
Should we give Babcock a break?