Lupul discusses Leafs exit: My contract was 'exceeding my production'
Joffrey Lupul quickly went from beloved star to financial burden during his roller-coaster tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Traded to Toronto by the Anaheim Ducks in 2011 along with Jake Gardiner and a draft pick in exchange for Francois Beauchemin, Lupul was coming off a serious back injury that could've ended his career and was included as a cap dump.
The former seventh overall pick, however, was rejuvenated in Toronto; he finished the 2010-11 season on a high note before enjoying a career campaign in 2011-12, tallying 66 points in 67 games while riding shotgun with Phil Kessel. He signed a five-year, $26.25-million extension with the Leafs during the following season.
But Lupul battled several injuries in 2014-15 and 2015-16. A shell of his former self, he played 101 total games those two seasons, tallying 35 points.
"My mindset had changed completely," Lupul revealed to former NHLers Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette on Wednesday's episode of the "Spittin' Chiclets" podcast. "I went from driving to the game pumping Nirvana to instead listening to talk radio, pulling my car into the garage like, 'Please God, get back here in six hours.'"
The Maple Leafs controversially placed Lupul on long-term injured reserve ahead of the 2016-17 season and paid out the remainder of his deal.
"My contract was, at that point, exceeding my production on the ice," he said. "I was hurt a lot. It was always something - my back, then my groin. I couldn't keep myself healthy. And also, I had lost the confidence, not in my ability or skill set, but the confidence in like, 'Am I going to make it through this game? I feel like shit today. Is there a chance I'm going to blow out my back or something?'
"They didn't necessarily want me back on the team that year, and they made that pretty clear. But if I had full confidence in my body, I'm sure I would've put up a big fight and been like, 'Hey, I don't want to do this,' but to be honest, I wasn't sure."
While the Leafs were gearing up for the 2017-18 season, Lupul, essentially shunned from the team, posted a photo from a snowboarding outing on Instagram. Responding to a comment about his LTIR designation, Lupul wrote: "Haha failed physical? They cheat, everyone lets them." He quickly deleted the comment and apologized a few days later.
"I thought the situation, from my end, could've been handled a lot differently. It could've been sitting across the table from each other chatting about it instead of the way it went down but whatever. I don't hold a grudge at anyone."
Lupul skated in 701 career games, registering 420 points. Now retired, he's still able to work out and snowboard, but his back prevents him from golfing more than twice a week.