This past offseason, The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Tyler Bozak to a huge 5-year $21 million deal, following the Maple Leafs’ first round loss to the Boston Bruins, their first playoff berth in seven years. Bozak had a hard time justifying his new contract at the start of the season. Through the team’s first 11 games, Bozak scored 3 goals and 6 points before suffering a hamstring injury on October 25th that saw him sit for a month. He returned on November 25th against the Columbus Blue Jackets for 5 games, during which he scored one goal and 5 points before an oblique strain on December 3rd against the San Jose Sharks benched him until December 29th.
Since returning from his oblique strain,Tyler Bozak has been on fire for Toronto, as he has reclaimed his first-line center spot in between Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. In the 12 games he’s played since returning in late December, Bozak has 5 goals and 14 points, bringing his season totals up to 9 goals and 25 points in 28 games. But is he worth the $4.2 million price tag that he carries through the 2017-18 season?
During Bozak’s absence, head coach Randy Carlyle tried a number of line combinations to fill the void, though none of them really worked. When the Leafs’ lost Bozak from October 25th-November 25th, the team went 7-6-1, earning 15 out of a possible 28 points. When Bozak came back for 5 games, the Leafs went 1-2-2, and the losing got even worse when he was injured again on December 3rd, as the club went 6-6-2 without him. Since him most recent return on December 29th, Toronto has gone 10-3-0, including a win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Winter Classic, during which Tyler Bozak scored the shootout game-winner for Toronto.
Bozak’s numbers have been inconsistent throughout the season, but so has his playing time. Going in and out of the lineup is hard enough for any athlete, especially when they are still trying to recover from an injury. People can look at his stats and say that they aren’t enough to warrant the money he’s making, but look at how the Maple Leafs have performed without him in the lineup, and how their record looks with him in the lineup. As of now, Bozak isn’t even through the first season of his new contract, so it could be too early to judge him, but the Tyler Bozak we are seeing right now is exactly what Dave Nonis expects for the money he’s been given, so as long as Bozak continues to play this way, he is worth every penny of his new contract.