After watching the first few games of the season, it doesn’t appear to me as if the absence of William Nylander is the real problem here. Nor is his long term presence vital to the Maple Leafs. In fact, his real value might come as trade bait for what the team does need, namely: a topflight defenseman.
As it happens, I question whether he really wants to play in Toronto, at least relative to what they are offering him. That’s what forcing this issue means, at least to me. He doesn’t give a toss, doesn’t trust the league or executives to do what’s right by him (hell, if I was his dad I’d point out that he can’t even trust his union, which will take Tom Wilson’s side if he ever decides to brain you.) So get what you can.
Willie can’t be missing what constitutes the team’s real priorities which, as virtually every commentator in the city has noted, is 1. Matthews 2. Marner (very close to Matthews) and bring up the rear 3. Nylander. And Willie can’t be mistaking what that means for his money. MLSE is not just asking the Leafs players to take a cut – they’re really asking HIM. Because of his position on the team. As his father would point out, on the Rangers they’d be starting to build the franchise around him. So there’s a lot that goes into this.
The Leafs are lowballing someone in a unique position to know how much BS is being blown at him (like, “Hey Brendan, what did you do when you were in a contract dispute with New Jersey?”) and Nylander is also in the position to know that he’s worth what someone will pay him, not what the metrics say. With scoring and youth at a premium I’d bet on THAT over anything the Leafs will do. It’s easy for Matthews and Marner to be tougher – they’re going to get paid. Maybe a little less than they would elsewhere, but they’re gonna get paid a lot. They’re the top 2 priorities.
So if I’m their agent I’m telling them to shut up, we got this. And if anybody who thinks Brendan Shanahan hasn’t clearly communicated that to them you’re nuts. The reason William Nylander is reacting the way he has, is precisely because he’s being given a different message. And he’s not thrilled. Can’t blame him, it’s a tough situation for both. The Leafs are being realistic about where these guys fit in their plans (Matthews and Marner are WAY more important) and Nylander is being realistic about who he is (on any other team he’d be a top 2 prospect and in line for a massive raise close to what he wants.) And the fact is he’s the only one who’s father played this game professionally for a long time. So he knows the ins and outs of all this ugly salary cap stuff.
Marshall Auerback is a financial market practitioner for over 30 years in Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, and New York, and is also a Research Associate for the Levy Institute at Bard College. A prolific economics commentator, He graduated magna cum laude with a BA from Queen’s University in 1981 and received a law degree from Corpus Cristi College, University of Oxford in 1983.